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January 4, 2012     Feather River Bulletin
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January 4, 2012
 

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FEATHER RIVER Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 Vol. 145, No. 21 Feather Publishi d Surrounding Areas Since 1866 50 CENTS COURT HA'LTS MEDI-CAL CUTS Delaine Fragnoli Managing Editor dfragroli@plumasnews.com Patients at skilled nursing facilities in Plumas County can rest a little easier. On Wednesday, Dec. 28, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt MediCal cuts that threat- ened to reduce services at or even close such facilities at Seneca Healthcare District and Eastern Plumas Health Care. Doug Self, chief executive officer at Seneca, said he was "glad" about the decision. "I felt the MediCal reduction plan was a knee-jerk reaction to the state budget without a thought to the consequences. "For our hospital, commu- nity and residents in long- term care it means we don't have to react to an emer- gency." Self said the reduc- tions could have resulted in closure of Seneca's long-term facility, which would have meant a loss in jobs. The situation was worse at EPHC, where the cuts would have amounted to more than $1 million annually in lost revenue. The cuts were supposed to be retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year, which meant cash- strapped EPHC would have had to come up with $500,000 in reimbursements. Officials there had little hope the state would offer any kind of payment plan. Tom Hayes, chief executive officer at EPHC, called the injunction order "really excellent. I think the judge got it right." The potential for closure and patient transfer "was really hard on our patients. Really tough. You have to understand: this is their home." In response to the news, Hayes said EPHC would not implement a previously announced 5 percent across- the-board pay cut. He said EPHC's facilities would begin accepting some patients again, mostly local people who need rehabilitation following treatment in Reno or elsewhere. The injunction, however, is not the end of the story. The California Hospital Associa- tion, which is litigating on behalf of its member hospitals, expects the state to appeal the injunction. It has vowed to continue to fight the cuts. Meanwhile, Hayes said, the injunction buys EPHC some time. "We need to start managing our payer mix more deliberately. We're too dependent on one payer, MediCal. That can really hurt us. If we can reduce that over time, it won't be nearly as tough." Background CHA filed suit in early November challenging the legality of the MediCal cuts, announced in October. The trade group followed up on that suit with a :notion for an injunction to halt the cuts until the larger case could be heard. The legal moves followed an Oct. 27 decision by the federal Center for Medicare/ Medicaid Se[vices (CMS) to approve a request from the state to cut its MediCal reim- b.ursement rates for "distinct part" skilled nursing care by 10 percent. MediCal is California's Medicaid program. The 10 percent cut is based on 2008 rates and would be retroactive to June 1, 2011. In court papers, CHA called the cuts "mega rate reductions" because they incorporate earlier cuts -- deemed illegal by both district and appeals courts -- and deduct another 10 per- cent, resulting in reductions of 20 percent or more. The injunction U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled overwhelmingly in favor of CHA on the motion for an injunction. She found that the group had more than met its burden of proof for the legal standards. CHA had taken CMS to task for its decision making process when it approved the cuts. According to CHA, the feds failed to p.roperly apply legal standards to the rate-reduction decision, to consider relevant factors and to do so in a transparent manner. CHA says it and other interested parties were denied meaningful access to the information exchanged See MediCal, page 8A Sheehan retires after 20 yea ; DastaMvt:rald "The relationships that John Sheehan leaned back in his swivel chair and glanced at reminders of his 20 years as Plumas Corporation executive director. mementos stand out in a room littered with boxes. He apologized for the mess. But moving out of a room filled memories isn't easy. "You should have seen it two weeks ago," Sheehan said with a aroud smile. "I've gotten rid of about two-thirds of the stuff." Sheehan's long list of accomplishments has touched every corner of dmcdonald@plumasnews.corn we have with the federal government and the state government and large players in our fives like PG&E don't have to be The photos, awards and subservient relationships. We should never be intimidated by these entities with billion-dollar budgets, because they do stupid things all the time.... Every John Sheehan, Executive Director Plumas Corporation Plumas County and radiated all the way to Washington, D.C. The retiring Plumas Corporation director will likely be remembered not just for leaving the county a better place than he found it, but also for the way he got things done. "Everybody thinks that John is so laid back. And, in a way, that is kind of how he operates," said Pat Terhune, chairwoman of the Plumas Corporation board of directors. "But you can see how much he does. And how much he knows is what always amazes me. John has it all in his head." "Can we keep his head? And retire the rest of him?" joked David Keller, director of Plumas County Community Development Commission. Those comments were made during a ceremony at the Dec. 20 Board of Super-visors meeting, where Sheehan received a certificate of appreciation from the county. John Sheehan sits in his Quincy office Tuesday, Dec. 27, as he reflects on his 20 years as executive director of Plumas Corpo- ration. Sheehan retired from the job at the end of December. Photo by Dan McDonald Attorney Michael Jackson, who worked closely with Sheehan to gain national prominence for the forestry watch- dog coalition Quincy Library Group, summed up Sheehan's tireless contribution. "I'm here on behalf of the Quincy Library Group to re- mind everybody how important John was to our operation," Jackson said. "He held us together the whole time. He has been absolutely critical in Washington, in Sacramento, anytime anyone has asked for him." See Sheehan, page 8A Flood wrecks clerk's office Dan McDonald Staff Writer drncdonald@plurnasnews.com A Christmas Day flood in the Plumas County Clerk Recorders office will force its workers t0conduct business in a different part of the cour- thouse for the next two weeks. A faulty heat exchanger in a 36-year-old fan coil began leaking sometime ,laring the day and flooded the entire office, according to count'y facilities director Joe Wilson. Wilson said there would be no interruption of service. The six employees and their computers were moved into the elections room on the east side of the first floor. They will work from that office for the next two weeks. The water was contained to the Clerk Recorders office. The cost of the repairs was estimated at $12,000. Most of the cost will be covered by insurance, according to Wilson. But he planned to ask the Board of Supervisors for up to $17,000 in contingency funds to make sure the repairs are done immediately. Wilson said Marcy DeMar- tile, who stopped in the office to drop off a gift, discovered the flood about 5:30 p.m. She immediately notified the facilities department. Several employees responded ar/d Quincy Carpet Cleaning's Rick Marchus was on the scene within 20 minutes of being called. He was able to extract 70 gallons of water. "The fact that he was able to respond that quickly on Christmas Day was "incredible," Wilson said. "He deserves a lot of cred it." In addition to DeMartile, Wilson also acknowledged the efforts of Mark and Melinda Rother, Debby Smith and Dustin Vert, "who quickly responded on Christmas night to isolate the heating unit." Wilson said they got things off the floor and turned on the heat to start drying out the room. He said no records were damaged or lost. "The damage could have been much worse without their efforts," Wilson said. The cost of the cleanup and See Flood, page 10A Social Security payments 00ncrease Per capita income from Social Security Plumas County $3,467 California $1,704 Nation $2,199 Percent of all income from Social Security Plumas County 9.0 California 4.0 Nation 5.5 Source: Bureau for Economic Analysis and the Social Security Administration Delaine Fragnoli Managing Editor dfragnoli@plurnasnews.com Plumas County residents who receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income will see an increase in their checks in 2012. That's because of a larger-than- .Itl[!![!Lll!!!!!!ll To subscribe to the Bulletin, call 530-283-0800 expected 3.6 percent cost-of- living increase to benefits. This is the first such increase since 2009. In March 2011, Social Secu- rity trustees estimated the in- crease would be 1.2 percent. But inflation proved higher, leading to the higher benefit. Social Security COLA is based on increases to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Officials compare inflation in the third quarter of a year with the same period in the prior year. See Increase, page 10A Strings ta, 00e.JTight Nick Clawson, Tessa Clawson, Holly Sternberg and Chris Retallack get excited about performing as the string quartet FlyWire at the Jan. 12 Words & Music at Morning Thunder in Quincy. For the story, see page 9B. Photo courtesy Plurnas Arts