Sonoma County Hospitals ‘Hard Hit’ by Decreased Reimbursements, Increased Health Care Costs
Five of eight hospitals in Sonoma County reported losses in 2001 as a result of decreased reimbursements and increased health care costs, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. Four community hospitals in Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Sonoma and Petaluma reported losses last year, and Santa Rosa-based Sutter Medical Center posted a $34.4 million loss in 2001. According to hospital administrators, "inadequate" reimbursements from Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurers, as well as increased pharmaceutical, surgical, technology and labor costs, have contributed to the financial problems. However, they said that the cost of care for uninsured and underinsured patients represents the "biggest drain" on hospital finances; Sonoma County hospitals spent $16.9 million on uncompensated care last year, according to state records. The Press Democrat reports that the financial problems have "especially hard hit" small community hospitals that do not have same "clout" as large hospitals in negotiations with medical suppliers and health insurers; some administrators at the hospitals said that the problems could force the facilities to close. "Within the next year, we all expect there will be significant developments where one or more hospitals will reach the point of financial exhaustion where the options will be reducing services or closing entirely," Daymon Doss, director of the Petaluma Health District, which operates Petaluma Valley Hospital and St. Joseph Health Systems, said. Hospitals in the county plan to lobby the Legislature next year for more funds from the state, but a "looming" state budget deficit and proposed reductions to the state's "already fragile" health care system could prevent additional assistance, the Press Democrat reports (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/1).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.