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Hospital awaiting $30 million emergency state loan

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Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2006 10:00 pm

As the federal government prepares to reimburse 22 California public hospitals roughly $400 million it owes to treat the poor, San Joaquin County supervisors reiterated Tuesday that the county general hospital still needs a $30 million emergency loan from the state to keep the hospital's doors open.

"We want to keep the pressure on them until we have the check in our hands," Assistant Health Care Services Director Margaret Szczepaniak said.

She said the county should not believe the federal government when officials say the check is in the mail.

San Joaquin General Hospital is owed more than $35 million in reimbursement funds. The hospital has received no money since last July because of a change in the way public hospitals are repaid for Medicare and Medi-Cal programs.

Previously, the state gave the hospitals a set amount to use, and then would get reimbursed by the federal government. Now, the hospitals have to provide the care and then bill the federal government directly.

But the federal government had not decided - until now - the expenses for which it can be billed and had stopped repayment. As a result, the hospital had to borrow from the county general fund and owes $1 million in interest.

The county asked the state earlier this month for a loan to keep the hospital open and keep its Medi-Cal service afloat. The state has yet to reply despite additional requests from Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced.

According to the state, some of the owed money will make its way to the needy hospitals in three or four weeks.

But Szczepaniak said that is not fast enough for the general hospital and the loan is still necessary.

Contact reporter Roman Gokhman at romang@tracypress.com.

First published: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 6:29:30 AM

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