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Guest Op/Ed: Health Care Sales Tax Referendum Should Wait Until 2014


The one-half cent indigent care surtax referendum should not be held this summer in a special election. For the following reasons, it should be postponed until the August 2014 primary election already scheduled.

  •     Estimates are that a special election this year will cost between a quarter to one half million dollars from property tax payers.
  •     If the referendum is held during the regular election next year, in 2014, there would be no additional cost.
  •     The voters will have more time to understand the issues and cast an informed vote.
  •     Fewer voters will participate in a rushed summer special election.
  •     Within a year the county will know the impact of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the state legislation involving Medicaid.
  •     The present policy of treating indigent patients in the emergency room is the least cost effective and most expensive care, however - no alternative plan has been adopted.
  •     The county administrator recommends taking money from the sales tax (if it passes) to hire consultants to draft a new indigent care plan. The cost of the special election would more than pay for the needed consultants and we could implement a plan more quickly.
  •     A more efficient and less expensive indigent care plan should be adopted regardless of whether the one half cent surtax is approved.  A plan needs to be adopted and implemented ASAP, not delayed for a year and a half and contingent on passage of the surtax.
  •     Several surrounding counties have already implemented cost efficient indigent care plans using the same type of health care facilities that Manatee County has in place. Those counties have saved millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money by divorcing themselves from hospital emergency room treatment for minor health issues and we can do the same.

I strongly support implementing a new indigent health care plan and support a referendum in 2014 to let the voters decide on a one half cent sales surtax. I have made several attempts to delay the referendum --  they have failed by only one vote.

If you agree with my reasons for postponing the referendum until the scheduled August 2014 election, I urge you to let your voice be heard.

Michael Gallen
Manatee County Commissioner
District 2


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