CASH-ON-DEMAND EPIDURALS: State Refuses Hospital Supplemental Medi-Cal Funding
State health officials "delayed approval" of Northridge Hospital Medical Center's eligibility for supplemental Medi-Cal funds last week, citing the hospitals practice of denying epidurals to Medi-Cal patients in labor unless they paid cash upfront. The Los Angeles Times reports that the California Medical Assistance Commission, the agency charged with overseeing the state's Medi-Cal funds, "refused to renew" a "lucrative Medi-Cal funding agreement" for Northridge "designed to augment the budgets" of hospitals that accept Medi-Cal, and will "consider other sanctions against the hospital" for violating state law. According to Byron Chell, executive director of the state Medical Assistance Commission, asking Medi-Cal patients for money violates the contract the hospital signed with the state, as does "[r]efusing treatment for financial reasons." "We want to send a very clear message that (denying women epidurals if they cannot pay) is a violation of the contract. Any hospital engaging in this will not get supplemental money," said CMAC member and former state Assemblyman Richard Katz (Bernstein, 6/27). Chell said, "I can imagine a physician asking for money. I just can't imagine not providing the service if somebody doesn't come up with the money. ... Both are improper and both are a violation of our contract" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/28).
Out Some Dough
The CMAC would not disclose the amount of funding the hospital stands to lose, "saying that such information is privileged for four years after the fiscal year in which the money is distributed." But Chell did say a total of $400 million this fiscal year will go to the 66 hospitals the commission contracts with -- 65 if Northridge is not reinstated. The Times reports that hospital officials could not be reached for comment (Los Angeles Times, 6/27). The Bee reports that the commission will "meet again in July," and "[i]f Northridge presents a satisfactory plan to answer the failure noted by state officials, funding could be approved retroactively" (6/28).