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Local Government Manatee Health Care Access Programs in Need of Funding


BRADENTON -- Manatee County's health care fund is declining and will redline by 2015 if something isn't done. The county's Health Care Access Task Force came up with13 recommendations to develop a cost-effective funding strategy for payment of indigent health care services. The Health Care Alliance Funding Committee will research available options with the goal of providing uncompensated health services for the county's indigent. But with declining revenues and expanding numbers of those in need, the county may soon call for life support.

In 1984, Manatee County sold Manatee Memorial, their county owned hospital, for $45 million and created an indigent care fund. In 2008, Resolution 08-134 created the Manatee County Hospital and Hospital Based Physician Indigent Healthcare Program with Manatee Memorial Hospital, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, and L.W. Blake Medical Center. Later that year, the Health Care Access Task Force made the 13 Recommendations to the BOCC.

Today, nearing the end of what might have been a success story, medical professionals and county officials are getting nervous. Among the recommendations: a half cent tax increase, not unlike Hillsborough County's escalated millage rate (surtax) which serves the same funding purpose. Other options include legislative changes to impact the delivery and payment of health care services and improved access to prevention, health care, specialty and ancillary care to Medicaid and low-income uninsured patients.

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker told commissioners that the aim should be to duplicate the success of the county employee system, in which costs have been reduced through improved access to preventative care and early treatment options. Hunzeker acknowledged, however, that such success was more challenging when it came to indigent care and required upfront spending before costs were reduced.

Some of the other possibilities discussed included an advisory group that conducts performance monitoring to reduce the duplication of services, and a community-wide health care summit to improve access to health care. Manatee County Community Service Director, Brenda Rogers, delivered the presentation to the BOCC and an audience of health care professionals, most of which represent the County's Healthcare Alliance.

In Rogers' report were spending and fund analysis, examples of neighboring county programs and comparisons to them. Rogers and the Alliance will meet back before the BOCC on February 28, 2013 to go over the options available with hopes of constructing a long term comprehensive plan. 


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