Increased Number of Sonoma County Seniors Could Raise Revenue for Hospitals in Next Several Decades
Patients use Sonoma County hospitals more often than the state average, a trend that could increase revenue for the facilities in the next few decades and prevent closures, according to a report issued Monday by the research company Economy.com, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. Five of the eight hospitals in the county reported deficits in 2001; however, the report predicted that over the next several decades, the increased number of Sonoma County seniors, who use a large number of hospital services and more than the state average, will provide hospitals in the county with "enough patients and income in the future to keep them financially stable," the Press Democrat reports. Seniors in Sonoma County had a hospitalization rate of 309 per 1,000, compared to 226 hospitalizations per 1,000 seniors statewide, the report found. The report said that Sonoma County "hospital patient revenues are steadily increasing" and that the facilities could eliminate some programs in the future "without seriously threatening care," the Press Democrat reports. In addition, the report said that the low rate of residents in Sonoma County who participate in Medi-Cal, which often provides reimbursements lower than the cost of services, will benefit hospitals in the county. About 8% of Sonoma County residents participate in Medi-Cal, compared to 14% of residents statewide. The report said that political efforts to reduce funds for Medicare and Medi-Cal, as well as the increased number of uninsured Sonoma County residents, represent the "greatest long-term threats" to hospitals in the county. "Despite near-term difficulties, the long-term outlook for the health service industry in Sonoma County is positive. The aging of the baby boomers, concurrent with a boom in health care technology and growing life expectancy, will support consumer demand," Rahesh Shankar, author of the report, said.
However, Dr. Bob Schultz, medical director at Kaiser Permanente and a coordinator of the Sonoma County Health Alliance, said that "hospital funding remains precarious," the Press Democrat reports. He said, "This is certainly different from what I am hearing from the hospital administrators. I am not sure the revenue increase will keep pace with the increase in costs" (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.