Georgia hospitals are anticipating today’s vote in the Senate on a bill that would lead to the extension of a provider fee used to shore up Medicaid.
The measure passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Tuesday, one day after it was introduced by Gov. Nathan Deal’s floor leaders.
The legislation would shift the responsibility of levying the fee, often referred to by some 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 amount of Medicaid care they provide.
David Tatum, a spokesman for Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta, says its hospitals serve the most Medicaid patients in Georgia and would take an $80 million dollar hit without the extension of the fee.
“We’d have to determine whether we could continue to offer the level of services and the number of services we provide, how many people we could employ, and whether we could continue to do the research that we do to try to save kids lives in Georgia,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Advocates for the fee also say around a dozen other hospitals in the state that serve a large number of Medicaid patients could close without it.
The provider fee was first 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. It is set to expire 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 but would still retain oversight. The new fee would expire in four years.