Hospital Funding Issues Weigh on County Budgets
Fresno, Stanislaus and Ventura counties recently took action on health care-related efforts. Summaries appear below.
Fresno County and Community Medical Centers officials on Friday agreed to ask state and CMS regulators to allow the hospital to keep a payment from the county to help the hospital qualify for additional Medi-Cal funds, the Fresno Bee reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (St. John, Fresno Bee, 5/26).
The county last year distributed to Community a lump-sum payment of $18 million to help the hospital balance its budget and leverage additional federal matching funds for Medi-Cal. In past years, the county distributed the funding in monthly installments to pay for care for indigents and county jail inmates.
The state Department of Health Services signed off on the deal, but in January a CMS official said the redistribution of the funds improperly linked Medicaid with care of indigents and inmates.
The county was instructed by CMS to revise its contract with Community in order to maintain the funding (California Healthline, 5/24).
Susan Anderson, county supervisor, said that a draft letter proposing a plan to resolve the payment issue could be sent to state and federal officials by next week. If regulators determine that draft is satisfactory, supervisors would vote on whether to send a final version.
County officials on Friday also scheduled for Wednesday a special session on whether to accept bids for leasing out empty space at University Medical Center to raise money for the general fund that could be transferred to the state.
Community last month transferred its emergency, trauma and acute care services from UMC to its Community Regional Medical Center, and supervisors have received several inquiries from parties interested in leasing the vacant space, Anderson said (Fresno Bee, 5/26).
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency is expected to finish the current fiscal year with a $5 million budget deficit, according to a third-quarter report by the county executive office, the Modesto Bee reports. The agency operates the county's health clinics.
Patty Hill Thomas, county chief operating officer, said the deficit is due to several factors, including:
- A shift toward more indigent adult patients, who generate higher costs for the county than Medi-Cal patients;
- Higher-than-estimated treatment costs due to the types of care that patients have required; and
- A possible overestimate of the agency's revenue.
Other challenges to the health budget include a 17.8% increase in employee health care costs and a $4.5 million budget deficit for Stanislaus Behavioral Health Center, the county's psychiatric hospital.
The county this summer is expected to sell the psychiatric hospital to Tenet Healthcare. The county then will pay Tenet to reserve psychiatric beds at the hospital, with an expected net cost increase of $1.29 million annually.
County officials at the end of June will issue recommendations for covering the budget shortfall. The county also is seeking a federal reclassification of its health clinics, which would increase reimbursement rates (Moran, Modesto Bee, 5/26).
Ventura County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston on Tuesday offered a budget proposal that includes funding to help Santa Paula Hospital through its continued start up phase, the Ventura County Star reports.
County funding for Santa Paula Hospital is expected to amount to about $1.8 million in fiscal year 2007-2008, about $700,000 less than the amount initially projected, according to a supplementary report.
The county board of supervisors is considering the budget plan and is scheduled to approve a final budget in mid-June (Biasotti, Ventura County Star, 5/30).