Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nielsen, others back rural health bill

The north state's Sen. Jim Nielsen is part of a bipartisan effort to pass a bill that would aid rural hospitals, including this area's Trinity and Mayers Memorial hospitals.

From Nielsen:
Citing long term budget savings and the critical need to restore Medi-Cal cuts to keep skilled nursing facilities open in rural communities, State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) along with hospital leaders, labor and healthcare professionals stood with Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) to push for the passage of Assembly Bill 900.

“In rural California, there are very few options other than hospital-based facilities,” said Senator Nielsen. “Small hospital emergency rooms can’t stay open. Residents have to travel long distances on windy, isolated, roads with chaotic weather challenges.”

Mayers Memorial Hospital District Chief Executive Officer, Matt Rees echoed Nielsen’s concerns, “Mayers Memorial serves our patients with the personal care that they need. Our facility is close to their families and friends who are critical in the patients’ recovery.”

If Mayers Memorial Hospital were to close, then less than 10 percent of the needs for the patient population will be met within 100 miles.

Specifically, Assembly Bill 900 reverses Medi-Cal cuts that were enacted in 2011 and more that will be implemented in the coming months. Additionally, Nielsen has authored Senate Bill 646 which would spare the most rural of hospitals from Medi-Cal cuts.

Medi-Cal beneficiaries make up nearly 80 percent of the patients receiving hospital-based skilled nursing care. These patients require specialized and medically complex care that freestanding nursing facilities and other health care providers will not or cannot accept. In the last five years, approximately 40 hospital-based skilled nursing facilities in California (about one-third) have closed due to financial pressures.

If the funding cuts are allowed to stand, hospital-based skilled nursing facilities, already decimated by low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates that don’t cover the cost of current care, will lose another 25-40 percent of their funding. This will result in the closure of facilities or drastically reduced services in rural communities.

AB 900 requires a two-thirds vote in both the State Assembly and Senate before it goes to Governor Brown for action. It will be first heard in the Assembly Health Committee on April 30. Because of its impact on the state budget, AB 900 is considered an “urgency” bill, meaning that it will take effect immediately if the Governor signs it into law by July 1.

Below is a list of hospitals in Nielsen’s Fourth Senate District that are most impacted:

Ø Biggs-Gridley Memorial Hospital
Ø Colusa Regional Medical Center SNF
Ø Mayers Memorial Hospital District
Ø Trinity Hospital

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