SB 646 and the little EPHC that could

Carolyn Carter
Staff Writer

  On April 24, the little hospital that could chugged its way up to the capital to plead its case to the legislators in Sacramento.

  Eastern Plumas Health Care CEO Tom Hayes and Plumas County Supervisor Jon Kennedy testified to the Senate Health Committee on behalf of Senate Bill 646.

  SB 646 is a bill that was influenced directly by EPHC to counteract the impending cuts from Assembly Bill 97. It was authored by Sen. Jim Nielsen, and co-authored by Assemblyman Wes Chesbro.

  The bill originally asked for an exception for rural hospitals from the drastic MediCal cuts to skilled nursing facilities.

  The bill has since expanded to include relief for all distinct-part skilled nursing facilities in California.

  “Broadening the application will broaden the support of the bill,” said Nielsen at the hearing.

  Jan Tew and Jeanne Fagliano, two sisters whose mother is currently residing in the skilled nursing facility at EPHC, joined Hayes and Kennedy. They all sat around a table and expressed their support for the bill to the panel of senators.

  “The reception was very much positive,” said Tew. “We felt like we really accomplished something very important.”

  At the hearing people present had a chance to speak and advocate for the bill.

  “The AB 97 cuts will be devastating to the hospital and likely result in the closure of the hospital if they were implemented,” Hayes explained to the committee.

  “AB 97’s one-size-fits-all approach to accomplishing saving by cutting MediCal ignores the realities of rural communities,” said Kennedy. “SB 646 will right the wrong in AB 97 that was passed in 2011. Had these cuts been a stand-alone bill, I have no doubt that it probably would have failed.”

  A representative from the California Hospital Association, a representative of the 33 rural counties in California, and a representative of the 78 health care districts in the state all expressed their strong support of the bill.

  Every member of the committee voted yes on the bill. With the unanimous vote, it will now go on to be reviewed by an appropriations committee.

  Kennedy said this is the scary part of the process because the budget is really the priority, and if the bill is too expensive of an exemption then it will never get to the Senate floor.

  Financially, the bill will result in a $58 million loss to the state budget. But Kennedy said most bills can be around $500 million.

  “There’s a good chance they could just see that money as budget dust,” he said.

  According to Hayes there were three bills including EPHC’s at the hearing that fought for the MediCal cuts, but SB 646 was the least expensive and the most specific.

  “I think it is a good thing that there are so many bills out there because it shows there is a lot of interest to right the wrong of AB 97,” said Kennedy.

  With its small amount of money, its increase in support and its quick pace in getting to the floor, the hospital’s bill seems to have a fighting chance.

  “Little old Plumas County, little EPHC and one supervisor from the county will bring this bill that could potentially protect every single skilled nursing facility hospital in the state,” said Kennedy.



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