Carol Meyer, key L.A. County health official, announces retirement
Meyer, 58, chief of operations of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services for nearly three years, has been a key administrator during a period of turmoil for the agency, which has been challenged with severely overcrowded emergency rooms and budget shortfalls.
Meyer said her job in recent years had not been easy.
“It’s been very challenging,” Meyer said. “I am so proud of the work that our hospitals and our clinics do.”
County and state officials expressed relief earlier this month when the Obama administration approved a $10-billion plan to help California modernize and expand its Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, pushing the state to the forefront of the national effort to implement the new healthcare law.
The so-called Medicaid waiver could ultimately help cover hundreds of thousands more Californians over the next five years.
On Tuesday, Meyer’s boss, interim director John Schunhoff, said how much of that $10 billion will make its way to L.A. County won’t be known for at least several more weeks, but the federal financial aid “has the potential to provide significant additional resources” to the county.
Meyer said she had intended to stay in her job until the Medicaid plan was completed.
Meyer has spent 36 years in county service. In 2009, she took home about $260,000 in county income, which put her among the top 200 highest paid officials in the county.
She said she plans to stay in the Los Angeles area, and did not rule out pursuing other work opportunities or serving on commissions. She said she did want to sail on the sailboat she owns with her husband.
Meyer said ongoing challenges for the department include establishing medical primary care homes for patients, and preparing for healthcare reform. County officials have expressed concern that when more people have access to health insurance, patients will seek care at non-county hospitals once they are given choices. Currently, low-income people with no access to healthcare often come to county hospitals, which provide free or low-cost care to those who cannot afford to pay.
Her retirement, which is effective Friday, comes a month before the arrival of a new leader of the Department of Health Services, Mitch Katz, who will take over the department from Schunhoff. Schunhoff will stay on at the department as chief deputy director after Katz arrives on Jan. 3.
--- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration
Photo: Carol Meyer, pictured at a 2007 Board of Supervisors meeting where they discussed the fate of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, which later closed to inpatient care. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times