County governments will support a revised Senate bill designed to help fund rural hospitals, but hospitals say the legislation will leave them with $35 million less than they need.
The New Mexico Hospital Association and the state Human Services Department asked the Legislature to approve a plan to raise $192 million, most of it in the form of federal government matching funds, to offset hospital losses from uncompensated care and treating indigents.
The plan would have required counties other than Sandoval and Bernalillo to kick in $36 million, which is the equivalent of a one-eighth percent tax on county gross receipts.
The Senate Public Affairs Committee this week wrote its own bill that would collect the equivalent of a one-twelfth percent GRT for five years. The bill is now awaiting action by the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill does not require counties to impose new taxes but pegs the amount they must provide to a percentage of GRT.
The University of New Mexico is able to submit its own matching dollars to receive funding for indigent and uncompensated care, so new funds from Bernalillo County are not needed.
The UNM Sandoval Regional Hospital does not participate in the program, so Sandoval County is not being asked to contribute any county funding.
“We are pleased there is legislative movement toward some solution, but we’re disappointed the level of funding is not adequate to fully fund the amount needed to support an already shrunken program,” said Jeff Dye, hospital association president. “We’re committed to working with all the stakeholders to see if there is a better solution for hospitals.”
Public Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, acknowledged the bill provides less funding than hospitals want but expressed hope state government could pick up some of the shortfall. HSD already has proposed state general fund support of $9 million for the program.
New Mexico Association of Counties Executive Director Steve Kopelman said county governments can support the bill, although they object to funds they contribute being pooled and distributed to most of the state’s hospitals instead of being directed to the counties that provide the funds.
“The counties across the board want to support the hospitals,” Kopelman said. But the bill requires counties to fund what most of them believe is a state responsibility, he said, and it takes from counties their control over how funds they collect from taxpayers are spent.