The Portola City Council and Eastern Plumas Heath Care set up a united front against the impending MediCal cuts that are coming to the hospital.
At the City Council meeting March 27, hospital CEO Tom Hayes updated the council on the fight against Assembly Bill 97, a bill that authorizes a 25 percent cut to MediCal reimbursements and demands retroactive payments from 2011 that the hospital will have to start paying back.
Hayes and his team at EPHC have been working toward finding a way to ease the pain of these cuts by asking to be exempt from them, or for implementation of a payment option over a course of 10 or 15 years.
“It is a cash issue,” Hayes said. “How quickly they want to collect the cash will determine how long we can stay open.”
Hayes spoke to the council about the possibility of having to severely limit the hospital’s services. That included the threat the cuts pose to the skilled nursing facility and how the elderly living at EPHC’s facility are at risk.
Hayes explained that the Department of Health Care Services conducted an analysis before the cuts were passed. He said that the department wanted to make sure if the cuts went through each county would still have adequate access to care.
However, the analysis only grouped the counties by two categories, urban or rural, resulting in Plumas County being matched up with rural counties as far away as Ventura County.
The Department of Health Care Services concluded that the similarities of the two counties make Ventura County, or a rural county like it, an acceptable place for the patients to go if the skilled nursing facility at EPHC is closed.
However, Hayes said the hospital has called more than 16 facilities that claim to have open beds. He said of the 16 facilities that stretch all the way down to Sacramento, only five beds were available.
He also discussed the unlikely possibility of hospitals or free-standing nursing facilities accepting the patients from EPHC.
“They’re going to take easy patients that don’t take a lot of work,” he said. “We always take higher care patients because we have rehab physical therapy and occupational therapy. That’s the whole point of distinct-care nursing facilities. We are providing a higher level of skilled nursing care. They’re not going to want to take our patients.”
When a member of the public asked what would happen to the patients if the distinct-part skilled nursing facility closes at EPHC, Hayes replied, “Ask the governor that question.”
Hayes has contacted 15 legislators and he said he is pleased he is starting to see a response from them.
“A month ago I was really disheartened, but now I’m a little bit more encouraged,” he said.
Council Member Phil Oels asked Hayes what the community could do to help the hospital and he suggested the community continue to write letters to everyone involved: legislators, the governor and the Department of Health and Humans Services.
He also asked that the public continue to use the hospital’s services to emphasize how important the hospital is to the area.
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