Hill Country Community Clinic in jeopardy

Just as Hill Country Community Clinic got the framing up on its $4.5 million expansion to serve an area of Shasta County the size of Rhode Island, the California budget stepped out to swing a two-by-four at its head.

Two proposed state policy changes would dramatically reduce the services the Round Mountain health-care center offers to insured and under-insured patients.

The first would drop routine adult dental care from Medi-Cal plans.

“It would significantly affect our dental, maybe to the point of its closure,” Richard Hardie, the finance director, said Thursday.

That was after he walked me through the tiny rabbit-warren hallways and rooms of the existing clinic, through the three cramped dental-chair rooms and around a corner into the wide, bright framework of expansion.

Because of Hill Country’s federal status, the drop from dental care reductions would force a rate change of reimbursed services for all patients, not just dental or low-income. Everybody.

Executive Director Lynn Dorroh said a 1 percent or 2 percent dip would take them into the red.

“If dental went away, it would majorly destabilize the whole operation,” she said.

The second policy change would drop their low-income patients’ qualifying income level from poverty level to 61 percent of poverty level. In other words, from $21,200 for a family of four to $12,932. That's $250 a week.

The center’s nearly 3,000 patients are about 50 percent public pay, 30 percent uninsured and 20 percent insured, Dorroh said.

Some 40 percent of them come from Round Mountain, Montgomery Creek, Big Bend and Oak Run. The rest come from Burney, Fall River Mills and Redding.

The cuts would affect the surrounding communities. The center is a significant economic driver in the rural Intermountain area. It has 55 employees and a $1.8 million annual payroll budget, Hardie said.

Many area groups and individuals have moved mountains of money over the last 23 years to help the Hill Country become the crucial North State facility it is today. It is a beloved resource, enjoying overwhelming community support. Here are more details.

The budget is due on June 15. Health-care services across California are facing these same dramatic funding cuts. Advocates are mobilizing to prevent what they’re calling a devastating possibility.

Stay tuned.

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