A bill that continues provider fee to hospitals in order to shore up Medicaid becomes the first piece of legislation to pass this session in the Georgia General Assembly.
The measure, some refer to as a “bed tax”, gives the authority to levy the fee to the Department of Community Health which already assesses similar fees to nursing homes in the state.
The provider fee was established in 2010 as a way to draw federal dollars to those hospitals that treat a large number of Medicaid patients. It is based on a percentage of a hospital’s net revenue.
The current fee ends in June and without the bill, the state would have had to find $700 million to fill the hole. Lawmakers say as many as 10 rural hospitals faced closure without it.
“If you want to stifle economic development… especially in rural Georgia, then put a ‘no’ vote up today,” said Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.
While the bill passed overwhelmingly, 147-18, some lawmakers complain it allows the Legislature to shirk its responsibilities by putting the burden on a state department to levy fees that many believe is more like a tax.
“Instead of tackling difficult problems that we’ve been elected to do… I’m concerned we’re doing a bit of ducking and dodging here,” says Rep. Brian Thomas (D-Lilburn).
Rep. David Casas (R-Lilburn) says he could not support it because the Legislature should have found the money in the budget instead.
“I’d like to see more movement on zero-based budgeting,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. “I’d really like to see where these agencies are spending their money… and I think if we do that, we’ll easily find the money.”
The bill, which was an initiative of Gov. Nathan Deal, now awaits his signature. His office has not indicated when that will happen.