‘It Can Be Costly to Treat CCS Kids’

Assembly member Cathleen Galgiani (D-Tracy) is well aware of the budget crisis in California. But she’s also aware of another crisis in children’s hospitals, she said.

“It can be costly to treat CCS (California Children’s Services) kids,” Galgiani said. “The Department was considering reimbursing hospitals at their negotiated California Medical Assistance Commission or otherwise known as CMAC rate. This bill would clarify [that] reimbursement.”

The CMAC rate is a hospital rate of reimbursement negotiated by the California Medical Assistance Commission. The state Department of Health Care Services would like to switch to that rate. Galgiani’s AB 1728 instead would maintain the current reimbursement rate, which is a hospital’s interim rate. The CMAC rate would go into effect unless this bill is passed.

Cindy Ehnes, president and CEO of the California Children’s Hospital Association, said the cost of CCS children’s care falls primarily on a small number of large children’s hospitals in the state.

“There are eight private, not-for-profit children’s hospitals that take care of the lion’s share of these kids,” Ehnes said. “The doors of the children’s hospitals are always open to these children.”

One of those facilities is Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera, where Tim Curley is the director of community and government relations.

“We are the only hospital of its kind in the area, and that area is about 45,000 square miles,” Curley said. “We have a million kids in our area, a third of whom are living in poverty. In many low-income families, they rely on some form of medical support from the state, and a much smaller group of them relies on CCS. … [They are] only 2% of inpatient volume, but these kids are resource-intensive for the children’s hospital.”

The bill was greeted by legislators with a mix of concerns — affinity for the intent of the legislation, and trepidation about its cost, which Galgiani estimated at about $27 million.

“I am concerned about undoing the budget language,” Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) said.

“The children of CCS have no bigger ally than me,” Assembly member Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said. “But these cuts are a budget issue. I hope we have a chance to see this in the context of the budget committee, and I hope to fix it there.”

Assembly member Rich Gordon (D-San Mateo) had a slightly different take on it: “Luckily, this is the policy committee, not the budget committee,” he said. “I have no trouble voting for this in policy, but I might have a lot more heartache if I were sitting on a budget committee.”

AB 1728 was approved, and now heads to Appropriations.

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