Medi-Cal cuts to hospice blasted by county provider
Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget would eliminate hospice services for Medi-Cal patients who are terminally ill – indigent Californians too young to qualify for Medicare.
That proposed budget cut doesn’t sit well with officials at Hospice of the Foothills, western Nevada County’s hospice services provider.
“People on Medi-Cal have just as much right to get hospice care as anyone else,” said Richard Fournier, Hospice of the Foothills’ executive director.
Most of Hospice of the Foothills’ patients are elderly, but, “I think 10 percent of our revenue is Medi-Cal,” Fournier said. Any revenue is important, he said, but losing Medi-Cal wouldn’t bankrupt Hospice of the Foothills, which has strong community support and financial reserves.
The leader of a statewide hospice organization argued that Davis’ proposed budget cut won’t result in savings.
“Hospice saves the state money,” said Margaret Clausen, executive director of the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association, which represents some 250 hospices.
“Research shows that California will have to pay about $11 million a year more than the cost of hospice services, because without hospice to care for them at home, these patients will be cared for and die in more expensive hospital emergency rooms, inpatient facilities and intensive care units,” Clausen said.
However, Lea Brooks, spokeswoman for the California Department of Health Services, justified the governor’s budget proposal.
“California and more than 40 other states are facing large budget deficits this year. The cuts to make up the deficits are painful. The governor’s priority are programs that serve children,” she said.
As for the proposed Medi-Cal cuts, “the cuts in this area are beneficiaries over the age of 21 who are not in long-term care.”
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