ATLANTA - A bill to change who assesses a provider fee to hospitals in Georgia is moving at lightning speed through the Legislature.
The measure passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee Tuesday, one day after it was introduced by Gov. Nathan Deal’s floor leaders. It’s set for a floor vote in the Senate Thursday.
The legislation would shift the responsibility of levying provider fees, also referred to as a “bed tax”, from legislators to the Department of Community Health. The governor currently appoints the nine-member DCH board.
The fee, which is a percentage of a hospital's net revenue, allows the state to draw matching federal dollars which are then doled out to hospitals based on the number of Medicaid care they provide.
It was passed by lawmakers two years ago to fill a $500 million shortfall in the Medicaid budget that threatened to shut down hospitals such as Grady. The current fee expires in June.
The state faces a $374 million shortfall in Medicaid funding for the remainder of this fiscal year and nearly $400 million next year.
By shifting the burden to DCH, lawmakers wouldn't be forced to make the decision on what some consider a tax increase.
Committee chairman Senator Jack Murphy (R-Cumming) says the concept isn't new a one.
“We decided to go ahead and let DCH control that because they’ve been controlling nursing homes for ten years,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Under changes made in committee, the fee would expire in 2017 rather and 2018 and lawmakers would been given oversight.
Murphy says time is of the essence since the current fee expires in a matter of months.
“We just need it… we’re out of options. We can’t come up with another $700 million,” he says.
Three members of the committee voted against it including Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson.
“I have deep concerns on the process,” he says. “This bill was rushed through the General Assembly.”