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Bills head to the Senate on behalf of EPHC

  The drastic MediCal cuts to skilled nursing facilities in California are faced with an army of protests and legislative blockades. For Eastern Plumas Heath Care this could mean the difference between life and death.

  “We’re feeling positive about things,” said EPHC Public Relations Coordinator Linda Satchwell. “The huge amount of effort we’re putting in is really going somewhere. It’s all starting to register.”

  So far, two major bills are making their way to Sacramento that will critically affect the MediCal reimbursement cuts to the distinct part skilled nursing facilities in the state.

  The State Department of Health Care Services administers the MediCal program for low-income individuals who need health care services. Medicaid administers the payment provisions to the MediCal program.

  However, because of the California budgeting crisis, MediCal provider payments will be reduced by 10 percent. Also, there will be a demand for a retroactive payment dating back to June 1, 2011.

  On Feb. 22, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, introduced Assembly Bill 900. AB 900 asks that the payment reduction would not apply to distinct part skilled nursing facilities, as it would dangerously affect the general acute care hospital facilities they are attached to.

  Alejo, along with the California Hospital Association, has been advocating for the bill for the past couple of months. On April 10 they launched a public and media outreach campaign in Sacramento to raise awareness and support for the bill.

  Plumas County District 5 Supervisor Jon Kennedy spoke at the event along with Alejo, Sen. Jim Neilson and other community and hospital leaders.

  “AB 900 is critical to local governments across California, both urban and rural,” said Kennedy. “For my county, the retroactive skilled nursing cuts would be devastating. I don’t care if your population is rural like ours or urban like San Francisco or Los Angeles — when health care services are cut everyone suffers.”

  “The passage of AB 900 is critical to all of California,” said Alejo. “It will stop the cuts, save the state money and preserve essential services for patients who cannot go without medically necessary care and treatment.”

  The governor’s May budget revision and subsequent deliberations to enact the 2013-14 state budget pose an ideal opportunity for the bill to be addressed and discussed. But as of now the bill is still gaining support.

  Along with AB 900 is a more particular bill making its way to the floor: AB 646. AB 646 is a direct result of efforts exerted by Eastern Plumas Health Care and lobbyist Tim Taylor.

  According to Satchwell, the bill more specifically calls for the payment reduction to not apply to rural skilled nursing facility hospitals. This is in case the federal budget will not bend for all distinct part skilled nursing facilities in the state.

  Sen. Neilson and co-author Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro have introduced the bill. According to Taylor there are about nine other members who want to add on as co-authors.

  The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee, from which it will be referred to a policy committee. From there the bill will be refereed to the Senate Health Committee.

  On April 24, Eastern Plumas Health Care CEO Tom Hayes and Supervisor Kennedy will travel to Sacramento, along with several impacted patients’ family members, to testify to the Senate Health Committee on behalf of the bill. The next step after that is for the bill to be heard on the floor.

  “The plan moving forward is simple in concept: continue to build a coalition to support the bill and aggressively lobby the members of the Senate Health Committee,” Taylor said in an email to Satchwell.

  Satchwell said that things are looking better for the future of Eastern Plumas Health Care.

  “It feels like there is momentum. It feels like there is hope,” she said.

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