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Doctors Plea for Second Opinion


BRADENTON -- Manatee Memorial Hospital CEO Kevin DiLallo and Assistant Administrator Joseph Hwang delivered a presentation at Tuesday's BOCC meeting that took another swing at convincing commissioners to reconsider a sales tax that would pay for indigent health care the hospital provides. The fund that for decades has covered the cost will run out of assets next year.

Last year the county spent $350,000 on a special referendum that, had it passed, would of added a half-cent sales tax to purchases in the county to support the current spending on indigent health care once funding from proceeds of the sale of the county hospital over 30 years ago run out. The measure failed by a whooping two thirds of the votes cast.

Tuesday's rally by doctors and other supporters who benefit from the current methodology was a slightly different angle than what was delivered a year ago. There were different graphs, new acronyms and a song of desperation being sung by those who supported the tax. 

DiLallo spoke about the hospital being a 'safety net hospital,' a part of the county's history that has and feels a responsibility to the community against the criticism the hospital was a for-profit entity. Hwang clearly defined the financial risk and the need to hold on to staff that might flee if compensations takes a dive.

The graphs presented almost seemed a little conjured, there to tell just one side of the story. They were comparative funding practices by other counties with some apples to oranges in the mix, but there is no doubt a shortfall in indigent health care funds coming, compared to what the hospital is used to operating with. 

Commissioners struggled to get cozy with the request while steering away from raising property taxes or any other revenues, except the sales tax. So close to an election, raising taxes is seen as suicide, but there was no doubt the majority of the commission was ultimately in favor of using a sales tax to meet their goal. 

The county sends dollars to Tallahassee, and they are returned with a close to one-on-one match. Currently the $12 million need for the program comes from the county sending $6.9 million to the capitol, which matches it with $5.9 million and then returns $12.8 million to the county to be spent on health care.

The county, coincidentally, has $6.9 million left in the fund that has paid the cost for the past three decades. Capital shortfalls, a recession and non-discretionary spending slowly collapsed a fund that was designed to last much longer. 

After the presentation, all stakeholders left, and during commissioner comments members approved a motion that requested the County Administrator, Ed Hunzeker to conceive a budget by October, that includes a contract with some kind of fiscal relief for Manatee Memorial's indigent health care cost. A big order to be sure, but the board seems to finds the dollars for everything they want to happen. I guess we'll see how much they want this.    


BOCC Needs to Look North to Solve Indigent Care Funding

Published Sunday, September 7, 2014 12:10 am


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