The Business Digest


Feds Grant Medicaid Waiver

Ending a cliffhanger debate that has long jeopardized Los Angeles County’s overstressed health care system, federal officials cleared the way for the release of more than $1 billion that will keep clinics open and provide medical care to poor people.

After a roller-coaster month of negotiations capped by a meeting between President Clinton and county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky federal officials agreed to extend a waiver of Medicaid rules for five years. That waiver translates into $1.2 billion in federal reimbursements to the county over that time.

Without it, county officials had warned of layoffs and reductions in service to the nearly 3 million largely poor, uninsured residents served by the local public health system. The waiver allows the county to receive federal reimbursement for treating patients in outpatient clinics.

Convention Funding Secured

The financial fortunes of this summer’s Democratic National Convention were reversed, thanks to an aggressive scramble for public and private money capped by a fund-raiser featuring President Clinton at Mayor Richard Riordan’s home in Brentwood.

That event netted about $1 million, and it came on the heels of the City Council approving a $4 million public subsidy, a vote conditioned on Riordan chipping in $1 million of his own cash.

Developer Ed Roski was forced to do the same. Both men had pledged to give the money if the convention came up short, but the council voted not to release any public money until they contributed theirs.

All told, that means the convention fund-raisers secured $7 million in 24 hours. Convention officials said virtually all the money for the Los Angeles event is either in the bank or on the way. The convention is budgeted at $35.3 million and planners expect to spend $2 million more on community events and other related activities. But published reports have pegged the total cost as high as $50 million.

Quackenbush Resigns

Under the cloud of a criminal investigation and facing certain impeachment, Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush resigned one day before he was to testify under oath on his role in a widening political corruption scandal.

Minutes later, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued a statement signaling that the resignation will not end the commissioner’s troubles. Lockyer vowed to continue “without delay” a criminal investigation of settlements Quackenbush made with insurers accused of mishandling Northridge earthquake claims, and of foundations he established with settlement money.

An attorney for Quackenbush, who had been a rising Republican in a state dominated by Democrats, said he believes it will be proved that his client did nothing improper.

Ruling Targets Cable Access

A federal appeals court ruled that local governments cannot force cable TV companies to open their transmission lines to Internet competitors.

The ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving cable access in Portland, Ore., had immediate impact in Los Angeles. The City Council had planned to consider requiring cable companies to open their lines to Internet service providers as a condition of receiving franchise approvals. That proposal by City Councilman Alex Padilla now is on hold for 30 days while city lawyers study the court decision.

Advocates of so-called open access argue that consumers would have more choices and pay less if competing firms could provide Internet service over the same cable lines. But cable companies, which call the proposal “forced access,” contend that they need sole use of the lines to recover their huge investments in preparing their cable systems for Internet use.

Fox Film Chief Resigns

Fox Filmed Entertainment chief Bill Mechanic left as head of the studio under intense pressure from Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox parent News Corp., and the parent’s No. 2 executive, Peter Chernin.

The move comes amid a prolonged box-office slump, culminating in the current animated flop “Titan A.E.” Chernin reportedly lost confidence in Mechanic after that and other expensive, high-profile failures such as “Anna and the King” and “Fight Club.”

Mechanic said he has no job lined up. Fox has no replacement for him, but Chernin will probably take a more active role while the company looks for a successor.

LAUSD Approves Budget

The Los Angeles Board of Education tentatively approved an $8.4 billion budget for the 2000-01 school year after interim Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines shifted nearly $72 million from books, bathroom repairs and other high-priority needs into a reserve for salary negotiations.

Despite a healthy state treasury that allowed the local school district a 12 percent increase over last year’s budget, Cortines said there would not be enough money for both the salary increases that employees expect and the enhancements aimed at improving the instructional program.

Program enhancements may have to be phased in over five years or more, he said. Cortines said he transferred the funds at the request of some board members who were concerned that it was not clear how much the district had set aside for employee raises.

The district has offered 6 percent, but the teachers’ union, which is taking the lead in the contract talks with nine bargaining units, is asking for a 21 percent increase next year.

Mattel Unloads Unit

Troubled toy maker Mattel Inc. said it plans to sell its Cyber Patrol unit to London-based JSB Software Technologies in a deal worth $100 million.

A spokeswoman for the El Segundo-based company said the actual decision to sell Cyber Patrol, a brand of Web filtering products Mattel acquired with its 1999 purchase of Learning Co., was made before Mattel’s April announcement to unload all the Learning Co. assets. But that decision wasn’t publicly annnounced until last week.

Last year, Learning Co. lost more than $200 million, causing Mattel to lose money for the first time in a decade: $82.3 million in 1999, excluding one-time charges.

No posts to display