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State Senate to consider shifting bed tax
Bill would allow health board to collect hospital provider fee
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House committee assignments

Hall County
Timothy Barr: Code Revision; Health & Human Services; Motor Vehicles
Emory Dunahoo: Banks and Banking; Game, Fish & Parks; Information & Audits, secretary; State Properties, vice chairman
Lee Hawkins: Insurance; Health & Human Services; Retirement
Carl Rogers: Appropriations, higher education, chairman; Insurance; Health & Human Services

Northeast Georgia
Stephen Allison: Appropriations, general government; Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications; Game, Fish & Parks, vice chairman; Juvenile Justice; Judiciary, secretary
Tommy Benton: Education, secretary; Human Relations & Aging, chairman; Rules; Transportation
Mike Dudgeon: Education; Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications; Science & Technology; Small Business Development
Geoff Duncan: Banks & Banking; Interstate Cooperation; Science & Technology
Dan Gasaway: Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight; Insurance; Natural Resources & Environment
Mark Hamilton: Appropriations, general government; Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications; Governmental Affairs; Industry & Labor, chairman; Rules; Transportation
Terry Rogers: Defense & Veterans Affairs, secretary; Economic Development & Tourism; Human Relations & Aging; State Planning & Community Affairs, vice chairman
Kevin Tanner: Education; Intragovernmental Coordination; Natural Resources & Environment

The state Senate is expected to consider legislation this afternoon that will allow Georgia to continue collecting a hospital provider tax, or the bed tax, but gives political cover to lawmakers who don’t want to make a direct vote for a tax.

Gov. Nathan Deal gave a speech Wednesday morning at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues breakfast that supports authorizing the Board of the Department of Community Health to collect a hospital provider fee to help with funding Medicaid. The bill passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Some Hall County delegation members are keeping track of the issue and the legislation. Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said the nursing home industry has a similar fee that the board implemented years ago. The bill has to be considered by the Senate before moving through the House process. There may be some concerns that by authorizing the board to handle the fee, the legislature could lose its power and authority over the fee, Rogers said.

Speaking after the breakfast, Deal said the legislature would retain oversight and that many other states have the same sort of fee.

“They could revoke it. Quite frankly, it is nothing to say that if they delegate it for a period of four years, that even prior to that, they possibly could come back and revoke that authority,” Deal said. “But, it seems to be the most logical since they already do that for nursing homes.”

Deborah Bailey, director of governmental affairs for Northeast Georgia Health System Inc., said hospitals as a whole support the legislation the Senate committee approved.

“At any time when you have the opportunity to match the state funds two-to-one with federal funds, it’s very helpful,” Bailey said.

Rogers said he understands support of the bill, but “she doesn’t have 54,000 constituents.”

While Rogers himself is taking a wait-and-see approach, he thinks that on the Republican side the House may be more likely to vote for the Senate version than a bill that requires creating a tax or voting for a tax increase.

The current fee is a percentage of a hospital’s net patient revenue. An issue with the fee now is that hospitals with many Medicaid patients benefit, while hospitals with a small population of Medicaid patients lose money. The Georgia Hospital Association has worked with hospitals to adjust the formula to mitigate that loss. Deal said that up to 14 hospitals in the state could close if the bed tax were allowed to expire.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said losing that funding would have a devastating effect on health providers around the state, especially in rural areas. He said he’s not thrilled with the entire bill, but it’s a necessary bill.

“It’s the best of a bad situation,” he said.

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