Nursing home bill held on ‘suspense’

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital officials are concerned about a potential reduction in the reimbursement for Medi-cal patients at the skilled nursing facility.

A state assembly bill that would restore funding to nursing homes such as Mabie Southside and Mabie Northside in Hollister has been placed on the suspense file in the state senate’s appropriation committee.
Marva Diaz, a staff member for Assemblymember Luis Alejo, confirmed the bill is being held on suspense and will be heard in August.
At the two skilled nursing facilities associated with Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, Mabie Northside and Mabie Southside, about 75 percent of patients in both facilities have Medi-Cal insurance. The per-day rate for the facilities is $409 per patient, but the state approved a 10 percent rate reduction for reimbursement in 2011. The rate has not gone into effect because two agencies had been challenging the reimbursement reduction in courts.
According to Jan Emerson-Shea, the vice president of external affairs for the California Hospital Association, the rates approved in 2011 were based on reimbursement rates from 2008-09 – which means the reduction could be close to 25 to 30 percent for some facilities.
“It wouldn’t cover our cost of daily care,” said Frankie Gallagher, the director of marketing for Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister and a Free Lance editorial board member, when the bill was first proposed in April. “We are extremely concerned with the outcome of this and something needed to be done.”
The state senate’s appropriation committee refers all bills that are expected to have a financial impact of $50,000 or more in a given fiscal year to the suspense file. A bill placed on the suspense file may only be removed to a second reading by an action of the committee, according to the rules of the senate committee. The suspense file allows the committee to wait to hear bills with a high fiscal impact until after a state budget has been approved so the committee members have a better understanding of what funds are available.
The senate appropriations committee is scheduled to hear all the suspense file bills, including AB 900, on Aug. 12.
According to a report from the California State Association of Counties, AB 900 is estimated to cost $140 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year and up to $573 million in 2013-14.
The bill was approved by the assembly’s appropriations committee on May 23.

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