Health

Tuesday, Jun 25 2013 05:14 PM

Doctors ask for access to reserve funds

BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

Private practice doctors appealed to the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, asking for a shot at a slice of Kern Health Systems' multi-million dollar reserve funds.

Dr. Hasmukh Amin, owner of Riverwalk Pediatric Clinic, said the private providers care for many patients managed by Kern Health Systems but are not eligible for any of the surplus funds distributed by the agency. Amin said he raised the issue with Doug Hayward, Kern Health Systems CEO, and that Hayward informed him that extra reserves must be distributed to safety-net providers.

"I'm asking the board of supervisors to consider amending the present ordinance and allow a portion of the reserve fund to be distributed to the private practice physician(s), private practice physicians who over years have worked very hard to create the reserve fund," Amin said.

Kern Health Systems is the county's local Medi-Cal managed-care health plan. KHS contracts with 144 independent primary care providers, according to KHS staff. The nonprofit organization has distributed more than $26 million from its reserves in the last year.

At the end of 2012, Kern Health Systems had about $67 million in its reserves, according to staff.

In a letter addressed to Amin last year, Hayward wrote that KHS can give extra reserve money only to federally qualified health centers and public hospitals.

"In Kern County, Clinica Sierra Vista, National Health Services and Kern Medical Center are the only entities who meet this definition," Hayward wrote in the letter dated May 25, 2012.

Clinica Sierra Vista CEO Steve Schilling addressed the board Tuesday morning immediately after Amin. Schilling said state law and the county's ordinance designates safety-net providers as the recipients of any excess reserves for a reason.

"The safety net is by statute, by law, by ordinance obligated to have its doors open at all times to all comers -- both those that come with insurance, those that come with Medi-Cal and those that come with nothing. And that's why the statue was created the way it was," he said.

Supervisor Mike Maggard asked the County Administrative Office to dig into Amin's question and report back to the board during a public session.

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