PD Editorial: Keeping Sonoma Valley Hospital healthy: Yes on Measure B

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Last year, Sonoma residents celebrated the 70th anniversary of one of the community’s most cherished assets — Sonoma Valley Hospital. Since its founding in 1946, the hospital has played a central role in ensuring both the physical and economic health of the valley. With some 476 employees and a payroll of roughly $30 million, the hospital is reported to have an overall economic impact on the region of about $100 million.

But as anyone associated with health care today knows, there are no long-term guarantees, especially for rural hospitals.

This is particularly true given the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. If President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress follow through on threats to repeal Obamacare, the impacts on hospitals could be devastating. Rates for uncompensated care, for example, would most likely soar again as more people would be left uninsured and have to resort to emergency rooms for their care.

As it is, Sonoma Valley Hospital continues to see costs increase while reimbursements from commercial insurance have declined, according to Sonoma Valley Health Care District board member Peter Hohorst. Meanwhile, roughly one in four patients at the hospital — compared to a state average of 15 percent — is covered by Medicare, which traditionally provides reimbursements at less than the actual cost of service.

As a result, the district is asking voters to approve a five-year extension of an existing parcel tax with an increase of $55 a year. This would bring the total parcel tax to $250 a year, which would generate, in total, $3.85 million a year for the hospital over the next half decade.

The request appears on the March 7 ballot as Measure B and requires a two-thirds majority to pass. We encourage voters to support it — as they have done with similar measures in the past.

This would mark the fourth time in 15 years that the hospital has sought a parcel tax or an extension. And each time the community has responded with a strong vote of support, beginning with Measure D in 2002 which received the approval of 84 percent of voters.

In 2007, the district asked for a five-year extension and requested that the tax be increased $65 to $195 per parcel. That was approved by 74 percent of voters. Five years later, the district asked for an extension but no increase and received 73 percent of the vote. There’s no organized opposition for Measure B this time. And there’s also no reason to expect a different result.

The community has reason to be proud of its hospital. Last year, Sonoma Valley Hospital received a four-star rating for quality and safety from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a rating that means the facility will receive an extra $200,000 in Medicare reimbursements this year.

Sonoma Valley Hospital is an asset that the region can’t afford to lose or see decline. Vote yes on Measure B.

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