Proposed cuts threaten Barton skilled nursing facility |

Proposed cuts threaten Barton skilled nursing facility

Axie Navas

Barton Memorial Hospital’s Skilled Nursing Facility faces capacity reductions — and possible closure — if a California bill making its way through the legislature doesn’t pass.

Assembly Bill 900 would reverse cuts to Medi-Cal reimbursement for skilled nursing facilities proposed in another bill, AB 97. The planned budget reductions would affect hospitals in rural communities throughout the state, Barton Health Vice President of Ancillary Services Mary Bittner said.

Barton’s 48-bed skilled nursing facility primarily serves elderly Medi-Cal patients who require a high level of care and who often stay in the facility until they die. Without the local center, Bittner said people would have to travel beyond Sacramento for the same level of care.

“They are on Medi-Cal because they sold their home, they have no assets and a lot of the time they have no family,” Bittner said. “These are our older folk in the community who have chronic disease.”

While the cuts amount to a 10 percent reduction for most health care providers, the cuts are deeper — about 25 percent — for hospital-based skilled nursing facilities, the California Hospital Association wrote in a press release.

The California Hospital Association challenged the Medi-Cal reimbursement cuts fall 2011, but it lost the lawsuit when the court unanimously approved the reductions in December. Now the association is backing AB 900, a measure that would exempt skilled nursing facilities from the 10 percent Medi-Cal cut.

The cuts would cost hospitals about $81 million across the state, according to the California Hospital Association.

“If AB 900 does not pass, our skilled nursing facility may not only face cut backs or closure but will have to pay the state of California — retroactive to June 2011 — the amount of reduced reimbursement. Losing these funds will impact our overall operations, drive up cost for the provision of acute-care and possibly jeopardize the future viability of Barton as the sole health care provider for our community,” Bittner wrote in an email.

According to Barton Health’s Vice President of Finance Dick Derby, Barton will have to pay the state more than $2.3 million if the bill doesn’t pass.

The Assembly Health Committee voted unanimously last week to pass AB 900, but Bittner said the bill still has a long way to go before reaching Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. She requested people contact Sen. Ted Gaines at and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow at to support the measure.

“We’re trying to encourage people in this community to voice their support for AB 900,” she said.

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