Deal on table for hospital tax

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Lawmakers have reached an agreement on a hospital tax that could help pay for Medicaid.

"I'm optimistic on the support from the house and senate," says Tim McManus, CEO of Garden Park Medical Center of Gulfport.

The state's hospital association supports the agreement lawmakers reached on Saturday night.

In the proposal, state hospitals would share a $60 million tax.  They would also be protected from future cuts.  But, hospitals could see a gradual increase in the tax, possibly up to $90 million, once federal stimulus dollars run out sometime in 2010.

Because of stimulus dollars, the state isn't paying out as much for Medicaid compared to past years.  But, McManus says it's important to look beyond 2010 when the stimulus dollars are expected to run out.

"That's part of why we're trying to put some protections in there that go beyond the stimulus money running out," says McManus.

But, even with the concessions made for hospitals in the agreement, McMann says a tax still means more money coming out of the hospital's budget.

"Even at the $60 million level, this is $750,000 more in taxes than we pay today," says McManus.

Though house and senate leaders have reached a tentative agreement, Governor Haley Barbour must still have a say in the plan.

"The question is will the governor resist what the legislature has finally agreed upon some nine days before the fiscal year," says Chairman Dedeaux.

The fiscal year ends June 30th, and if something isn't decided the state's medicaid division will shut down.

"We're certainly greatly concerned that that would create a fair amount of chaos on the health care system," says McManus.

The next step would be for the governor to call a special session.

While the governor supports a hospital tax, in the past, he's pushed for a $90 million tax and opposed protecting hospitals from future cuts. If the governor decides to veto the proposed tax, lawmakers must override it with a two-thirds vote.

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