Georgia Hospital Asks County To Spend Taxes On Indigent Care

MACON, Ga. (AP) — A Macon hospital authority wants its local government to start sharing local property tax collections to help pay for indigent care.

The Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority discussed its plans earlier this month, The Telegraph of Macon reports.

The authority oversees Atrium Health Navicent, the largest hospital in middle Georgia and one of four top-level trauma centers in the state.

If the Macon-Bibb County Commission approves the request, Macon-Bibb would become at least the 14th county statewide to use property taxes to pay for hospital care or physical improvements, according to the state Revenue Department and Associated Press reporting.

Michele Madison, a lawyer for the authority, said the authority is seeking money to pay for care delivered to people who are uninsured and too poor to pay.

State law allows counties to devote up to 7 mills of property taxes to pay for hospital buildings or subsidize health care.

“So you’ll see some very big dollars, and then you’ll just see some millage rates that help maintain the hospital authorities throughout the state,” Madison said.

Most notably, Fulton and DeKalb counties subsidize Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, a safety net hospital and the only top-level trauma center in metro Atlanta. The hospital has been pressing both counties to increase payments following the closure of nearby Atlanta Medical Center by Wellstar Health System.

Bibb County helped pay for indigent care for decades at what is now Atrium Health Navicent, but cut off funding in 2018 amid budget troubles. The hospital reported nearly $80 million in uncompensated care in 2021.

“We sort of have a moral argument to make, it seems to us that, you know, we were providing services to the county, the county is authorized to support us in terms of financial support for the indigent care for services and other services we provide to the community,” said Ken Banks, lawyer for Atrium Health Navicent and secretary of the hospital authority.

Atrium Health Navicent collected more than $9 million from the state Indigent Care Trust Fund in 2018 and 2019, according to the most recent data. That fund helps hospitals recoup some of the cost of uncompensated care.

Democrats contend that Georgia could ease the problem if it expanded the state-federal Medicaid health insurance program to cover most uninsured adults. While Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is pursuing a partial expansion, it would cover only some people who work, are in school, or performing community service.