VENTURA COUNTY: Supervisor Looks to Halt Medicare Cuts for Clinics
Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn today will ask his colleagues to solicit the support of top federal health officials in an effort to obtain a special exception for 23 health clinics that would allow them to continue to receive Medicare reimbursements at current levels, the Los Angeles Times reports. HCFA has informed the county that it considers the clinics free-standing entities, rendering them ineligible for the hospital based Medicare rate, which would bring in an additional $2 million annually. County officials contend that the clinics serve as outpatient satellites to the Ventura County Medical Center. They have appealed HCFA's ruling to HHS. In addition, state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), who was instrumental in designing the county's statewide model for treating mental illness, has "vowed a fight to withhold" $5.3 million the county receives for the innovative program, citing mismanagement of the system. The cutbacks come at a time when the county is already struggling to find way to pay a $15.3 million settlement to the federal government over Medicare fraud. Officials fear that the loss of funding could scale back or eliminate services to patients in the county's poorest community. Dr. Connell Davis, who runs the Santa Paula Clinic, said, "We provide services to people who would not go to the doctor at all if it were not for their neighborhood clinic. Their medical problems could become much worse." Flynn hopes to enlist several government officials, including Democratic U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, to bolster his "battle plan" to save the clinics' funding (Johnson, 9/12).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.