Phoebe gets behind bed tax - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe gets behind bed tax

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – It's looking more as if Georgia hospitals will have to pay a new tax to help balance the state budget. The Georgia Hospital Association has now reversed its position and endorses a bed tax proposed by Governor Sonny Perdue. Hospital groups originally opposed the proposal until steeper cuts were suggested.

The compromise means non-profit hospitals like Phoebe will pay the state a 1.4% fee on revenues.

Thousands of patients visit Phoebe Putney Hospital in Albany and Sumter County each year. Net patient revenue tops $500 Million, and that's the money the state wants to tap, charging Phoebe a fee for the privilege of operating a hospital.

With a huge budget shortfall, the state is cutting anywhere it can, including targeting hospital systems across the state. Attorney Tommy Chambless said, "As time has gone by and options and alternatives were presented, I would say that two things occurred: One is that it became clear to the hospital community that it's necessary for everybody to participate in some way in assisting the state with the budget crisis."

And other options that were put on the table just weren't feasible for the hospital to deal with. Chambless said, "Among the options on the table was the elimination of the exemption for sales tax for non for profit hospitals, an absolutely Draconian cut was another option that would have impacted healthcare all over the state of Georgia."

For both hospitals in Americus and Albany, the new tax will amount to around $7 Million. While that's not something they are happy with, hospital administration understands the need. "Everything considered," said Chambless, "we've got to do our part, the healthcare community's got to do its part in this terrible state budget crisis we have. If we had our druthers, we'd just assume not do it, but it's the best possible alternative for healthcare."

Hospitals have been instructed not to raise rates to pay for the cuts, and Phoebe says it's looking at belt tightening and running the operation more efficiently.

The bed tax for both the Albany and Sumter hospitals is expected to be more than $7 Million, but there is a silver lining for Phoebe. Some of the money they pay the state will increase the amount hospitals are paid for treating medicaid patients.

Under the current proposal, the hospitals would be assessed for three years and the rate would not increase.

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