The effect of Medicare on two public hospitals in Los Angeles County was analyzed by examining the percentage of patients 65 years of age and older among all discharges from 1958 through 1971. At Harbor General Hospital, discharges of elderly patients had dropped from 21.7% to 7.9% by late 1966; at Los Angeles County General Hospital, discharges decreased from 15.3% to 10.7% between 1966 and 1967. Monitoring public hospitals' demographic changes after enacting a national health plan may provide information on patients' and providers' acceptance of insurance and on resources needed by public hospitals to care for those left without coverage.
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