“Well, I have to tell you, I’m looking forward to getting paid again.”
That’s the summary reaction to passage of the state budget from Dave Jones, CEO of Mountain Valleys Health Centers up north in rural Lassen County.
“We are all relieved to have a budget,” he said.
That’s because his six community clinics have not been getting any Medi-Cal money from the state for almost a month now, because there has been no budget. And that’s their main source of funding. To stay in operation, they’ve been getting loans, according to Jones (who is no relation to Assembly member Dave Jones).
“We had a little ironic thing here,” Jones said. “We’re getting loans through CHFFA [the California Health Facilities Financing Authority]. It’s a program the state has set up, so the state was loaning us money, and we’re paying interest on it, to make up for the money they owed us,” he said. “That is, we were being loaned money by the same people who owe us that money.”
But despite pending renewal of Medi-Cal payments, the budget itself doesn’t offer much help for clinics like Mountain Valleys, he said.
That’s because a cut made last year to the Traditional Clinic Programs was originally put back into the budget approved by the Legislature this year — but that $10 million to rural clinics was one of the items blue-penciled by the governor on Friday. So Jones’ clinics in the northern reaches of the state were hoping to have some funding restored, but had that money pulled away at the last minute.
Among the other health care items in the Legislature-approved budget that were cut by the governor:
- $59.6 million from AIDS funding;
- $22 million in county health administration;
- $5 million from the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health program; and
- $1 million from the Prostate Cancer Treatment Program.
Adding in the $10 million from rural clinic funding, that amounts to $97.6 million in health services funding that was line-item vetoed from the budget.
“Last year, I had to eliminate 15% of my staff,” Jones said. “We expect we’ll be in the same place we have been, pretty short on staff.”
And Jones is worried that the clinic system based in Bieber, Calif., now may have to cut dental services altogether. “And we’re it for dental up here,” he said. “If we don’t have a dentist, no one does.” Residents would most likely have to travel to Redding or even up to Klamath Falls, Ore., for a dentist — each about a two-hour drive away.
“And if they’re Medi-Cal, they donât go at all,” Jones said. “They may wind up in the emergency room with abscessed teeth.”