Dougherty Co. concerned over indigent care funding

Dougherty Co. concerned over indigent care funding
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Dougherty County commissioners have continued to search for answers on how the proposed Lee County Medical Center would affect taxpayers.

On Monday Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said that one of the commission's many concerns is indigent care.

Right now, the financial burden of paying for indigent care does not fall on Dougherty County taxpayers.

Instead, Cohilas said that Phoebe covers the cost of the indigent care it provides.

However, that has not always been the case.

Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis reviewed the county's previous indigent care tax on Monday.

The tax paid for indigent care at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

"It began in 1990, due to (Phoebe's) financial situation, in order to take care of the indigent care who was with Dougherty County," said Crowdis.

Dougherty County and the Hospital Authority of Albany Dougherty County put the tax into place through a contract in December of 1990.

Citizens paid that tax, ranging from 1.5 to 2 mills, for nearly 12 years, raising their property taxes.

The funds went directly to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to take care of indigents, or people who do not have health insurance and are not eligible for health care coverage.

READ MORE: A closer look: Lee County Medical Center proposed funding

However, in 2002, the County and Hospital Authority ended that agreement, because of Phoebe's financial stability.

"It ended when they were financially able to take care of the indigent care themselves with the money they had been making," Crowdis explained.

Cohilas said Monday that the Dougherty County Commission is working to find out if Phoebe Putney Memorial hospital would be unable to cover the cost of indigent care, due to the opening of the proposed Lee County Medical Center.

READ MORE: Lee Co. responds to Dougherty Co. Commission's hospital impact study

If so, Cohilas said the cost of indigent care would fall back on the Dougherty County taxpayers.

Dougherty County has commissioned a study to find out more information on the potential financial effects of the proposed Lee County Medical Center on Dougherty County citizens.

Cohilas said he hopes that study will wrap up in the next few weeks.

If the study shows the proposed hospital will have a negative impact on Dougherty County, an attorney will bring the concerns before the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Lee County Commissioner Rick Muggridge responded to the issue saying, "It appears there's plenty of money to pay what needs to be paid."

Lee County Commissioner Billy Mathis said the proposed Lee County Medical Center would provide $12 million in uncompensated care by its second year of operation.

Mathis said he believes that would take that burden off Phoebe.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Dougherty County attorney Spencer Lee told commissioners he hired Robert Rozier of Atlanta to voice the Dougherty County Commission's concerns.

Previously, the county had hired a different attorney.

Lee told commissioners he thinks Rozier is a better choice because he specializes in health care.

In the past, Rozier worked for the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Lee told Commissioners he has more experience than the attorney they had originally hired.

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