I have been trying to get my hands on an internal Motion Picture & Television Fund and Foundation’s document called The Camden Report because it looks at all the different ways that the MPTF could have trimmed costs without resorting to the closures of the acute care hospital and long-term care nursing home at the end of 2009. Please, someone, forward me a copy. I expect to find it fascinating reading. New developments in this continuing story come via Andrew Gumbel, a former L.A. correspondent for The Independent UK newspaper and now a freelancer who’s reporting on it tonight (and making extensive use of my own January interview with chairman of the MPTF Foundation chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg):
— A letter sent by several MPTF families to chief executive David Tillman says some of the 100-plus frail residents threatened with removal to other facilities before the end of 2009, many of them in their 80s and 90s, feel “tormented” and are reluctant to eat. One woman took to her bed as soon as she heard she was being evicted and refused to get up again for a week, according to nursing staff. Another, who had been in apparently good health, died very soon after getting the news. In all, at least half a dozen residents have died since the closures were announced – a far higher death rate than usual. “Some have stated that they do not want to live if they have to leave their home here; they prefer to die right now without going on to some other place,” the letter sent to David Tillman said. Tillman declined to be interviewed for Gumbel’s article.
— Residents and their families are in touch with a heavy-hitting Los Angeles law firm which is offering its services pro bono have hired a law firm. [I received an email from one of the lawyers correcting Gumbel’s report.] They are planning to sue to force the MPTF to keep at least the long-term care facility, if not also the hospital, open.
— MPTF executives have told residents that they are planning to replace the hospital and long-term care facility with an assisted living condo complex, although they have made no public announcement.
— The most recent documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service in November 2008 show no $10 million losses, or any losses at all. The fund’s assets –- described in one press release as “draining… at an alarming rate” –- actually increased in 2006 and 2007, the last year for which figures are available. And while it is true that Medi-Cal reimbursements have indeed declined since last summer for hospital care (though not for other medical and nursing-home services), the fund’s accounts show a net increase in government reimbursements for both 2006 and 2007.
— Officials from the United Healthcare Workers union, which concluded a nine-month long contract negotiation with the MPTF last April, said they researched the fund’s finances extensively and found no cause for concern.
— A California Association of Health Facilities expert explained that reimbursement rates for reputable homes have actually increased since 2006 under a new payment regime negotiated with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. That analysis appears to be borne out by the MPTF’s own tax returns, which show an increase in “program service revenue including government fees” from $65.4 million in 2006 to $74 million in 2007. Medi-Cal payments are now under threat because of California’s budget crisis, but most of the threatened cuts have yet to be enacted.
I cannot verify tonight the accuracy of Gumbel’s reporting, which is why I am often loathe to link to other Internet posts. But he and I have both received journalism awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Gumbel writes he gave fund officials several opportunities – both over the phone and in writing – to explain their accounting figures. But he writes they told him only: “We are not doing any more interviews on the subject.”