Another steering committee member has presented his reasons for concurrence with the Sutter Health-financed Camden Study conclusions (“Judge hospital facts for yourself,” July 3). Scott Feller is to be commended for his active participation on both the steering committee as well as his own research of available data from a variety of sources. Hopefully, we shall hear from the remaining committee members on the subject. It should be recalled that the steering committee was in unanimous concurrence with the recommendations of the Camden Group study even though key data was withheld from that study group.
Having commended Mr. Feller for his community involvement, a number of questions arise from reading his article. I note that his initial exposure to the Sutter Health piracy of Sutter Coast Hospital came in “a number of community meetings” he attended in the earliest stages of the exposure of Sutter Health’s stealth moves to muscle ownership from a community hospital. Possibly he attended one of several meetings in which doctors Duncan, Caldwell and Davis, as well as James Coston, a past executive hospital board member of a 325-bed facility in Palmdale, presented to the public for the first time the alarming plan by Sutter Health Corporation to wrest all control from local governance and downsize from 49 beds to 22 beds. Downsizing would qualify them for $1.01 on the dollar reimbursement from Medicare. Not content with the conclusions presented by that community panel, Mr. Feller applied for the Camden Group study steering committee whereby he may gain more insight into the alleged plot but he leaves a critical gap, viz, he signed a non-disclosure statement swearing that he would not reveal any critical, relevant data. How, then, can he expect to have any credibility on the subject? He writes that subsequent to his tenure on the steering committee he has been appointed to the board of trustees as a voting member. The immediate question that arises from that is who appointed him? Since it is obvious that he was in support of Sutter Health’s plans by dint of the unanimity of the committee, it would seem that he would be a valuable tool on the Board of Trustees if he was appointed by Sutter Health. That suspicious question would be an easy one to dispel by Mr. Feller if I am wrong.
Mr. Feller’s smooth and well-written treatise presents a litany of references by which he would woo the reader into supporting Sutter Health’s immoral and hostile actions. You are encouraged to read them, but if you choose not to you will not be less informed of the relevant facts.
I would encourage Mr. Feller to avail himself of information relating to two employee healthcare plans concerning Sutter Health, one being the Carpenter’s Health and Welfare Trust Fund For California, the newsletter dated Dec. 2, 2013, www.carpenterfunds.com and the other being cvtrust.org (California’s Valued Trust), which represents California’s largest self-funded public schools trust. Sutter Health billed Carpenter Trust employees and their dependents $43 million in the year 2013, but because of the existing contract it was reduced to $34 million. Identical services with other providers’ costs would have averaged $29 million. $5 million is a hefty difference. I quote from a newsletter from Carpenter’s Health and Welfare Trust, benefitservices@ carpentertrustfunds.com.
California’s Valued Trust (CVT) issued a newsletter to its membership, a partial copy of which I read from informs the membership of a notice that Anthem Blue Cross received from Sutter Health System’s notice of intent to terminate their arrangements with Anthem effective Jan. 1, 2014. Subsequent talks between Sutter and Anthem were underway at that time, but Anthem reported to CVT that negotiations were markedly difficult, especially two aspects, one of which was a lack of transparency in their steadfast refusal to disclose meaningful cost data / information by which CVT employees need to make informed decisions on which health facility to select for their needed services. Sound familiar? Another hurdle was Sutter Health’s rates, which are quoted as being roughly 60 percent higher than the average of other hospitals in California. Anthem’s reimbursement rates cover Sutter Health’s costs and on average, according to their calculations, allow for at least 50-percent profit. I cannot categorically state that I believe those are correct figures nor, I daresay, can Sutter Health Systems convincingly back up a denial without opening their books in a goodwill gesture of candor and transparency that the members of the community Sutter Coast Hospital and Sutter Health Systems serves deserve. Come on, Sutter, what are you hiding?
Dale L. Bohling is a Crescent City resident.