Bed Tax opposed by patients and Hospital Admin. -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Bed Tax opposed by patients and Hospital Admin.

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Governor Sonny Perdue wants to impose a new fee on hospitals. Hospital administrators say it's nothing more than a tax on the sick to make up for budget shortfalls.

They say the proposal will have an impact on all Georgians. They worry that even if it doesn't pass, the state will reduce Medicaid payments. House leaders held a hearing on the proposal Wednesday. Hospital administrators say they understand the state's financial situation, but say taxing the sick is not a smart way to solve the problem. They're concerned the cost could harm, smaller hospitals in rural southwest Georgia that are already just getting by.

Minister Webbie Hill knows all too well the high cost of health care after being discharged just three weeks ago.

"I'm a disabled truck driver and with Medicare, I still have extra bills I have to pay and it's hard enough to make it all," said Hill.

He calls the proposed bed tax, that hospitals say will be pushed to patients too much.

"I feel like they're putting too much on the patient," said Hill.

He's not alone, Judy Iler agrees.

"A lot of people here are elderly, like you spoke of on Social Security and Medicare and they're having a hard enough time and I think we're all being taxed to death as it is already," said Iler. Hospital administrators call it a tax on the sick and say it could put struggling hospitals out of business.

"We've got in our part of the state a number of hospitals that are hanging on by their fingernails, that are very stressed, very fragile," said Tommy Chambless, PPMH Senior Vice President, Legal Counsel.

They call the approach the wrong one and suggest the state consider another means of funding the 608 million dollar Medicaid shortfall, like raising the tobacco tax.

"The state of Georgia has the 46th lowest tobacco tax in the United States. It's been years and years that there's been any increase in the tobacco tax," said Chambless.

Despite the opposition, Governor Perdue seems to stand by his proposals and has threatened to push a 16.5 percent decrease in Medicaid rates to health care providers if the legislature fails to fill the gap.

Under the plan that includes the bed tax, Georgia hospitals could lose 48 million dollars a year.

Hospital administrators say that could lead to job losses, service cuts, and more. In addition to the 1.6 percent tax on patient revenue, the Governor has also proposed a 1.6 percent tax on the premium revenue of managed care insurers, and a 1.9 percent cut in the rate used to pay many doctors through Medicaid.

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