The Del Norte Healthcare District today will discuss a letter it received from Sutter Coast Hospital CEO Mitch Hanna refusing to provide information on how the hospital determines its billing codes for different levels of emergency services.

Hanna’s letter, dated Nov. 16, comes in response to a written request from the healthcare district board. According to board Chairman Dr. Greg Duncan, a number of patients have approached the district with concerns about their charges and he and his colleagues are “doing what we can to help them find out at least why they were charged so much.”

Duncan and his colleague on the healthcare district board, Dr. Kevin Caldwell, signed the Oct. 25 letter to Hanna.

“To address community concerns, the district has repeatedly asked Ellie Popadic, director of ancillary services and business development at Sutter Coast Hospital, to provide the information which Sutter Coast Hospital uses to determine billing codes related to levels of service,” the Oct. 25 healthcare district letter states. “Ms. Popadic has stated she would not share that information. However, Ms. Popadic stated we could appeal that denial to you, which is the purpose of the letter.”

In his letter, Hanna states the hospital will not provide information about how it determines billing codes to the healthcare district “as we are concerned that it might be misinterpreted and somehow used to besmirch our reputation in the community, as has so frequently been done in the past.”

“Additionally, I would not want the community to misconstrue such action and to somehow think that the Healthcare District is the governing body of Sutter Coast Hospital or the intermediary between them and the hospital. Our hospital is governed by an honest, hard-working and dedicated group of community volunteers representing both Curry and Del Norte counties, and we already have in place mechanisms through which the public, including both former and prospective patients, may obtain information about the charges they have incurred or might expect to incur for healthcare services rendered at Sutter Coast,” Hanna states.

The hospital has “long-established” processes in place to help them, according to Hanna’s letter.

Hanna closes his letter by asking the healthcare district board to refer patients to Sutter Coast Hospital for an individual review of their bill.

Duncan said the process to get information about the hospital’s billing codes has been arduous, but at least Hanna’s letter informs the healthcare district that there is a criteria they apply to hospital visits and use to generate a bill.

Duncan said those who have approached the healthcare district for help with their hospital bills have already approached Sutter Coast.

“What else can we do?” Duncan asked Monday. “I guess that’ll be one of the discussions for tomorrow. But I’m glad that at least this issue is seeing the light of day.”

The healthcare district is also expected to appoint a new member to its board. Elizabeth Austen will fill a third vacant seat on the board. The three seats up for grabs during the November 2018 election were held by Terry McNamara, Dwayne Reichlin and Shellie Babich, none of whom decided to seek re-election.

Dohn Henion and Michael Young ran unopposed for two of the three available seats.

The Del Norte Healthcare District meet at 6:30 p.m. today at the Del Norte Community Wellness Center, 550 E. Washington Blvd., Crescent City. For more information, visit www.delnortehealthcare.org.

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