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Reject UNMH mill levy at polls

The following should not be construed as criticism of the quality of care at the University of New Mexico Hospital. I question the continuing need for a $95 million mill levy for the next eight years to support UNMH.

Federal law requires hospitals to provide charity care (indigent care) to maintain their not-for-profit status. The UNMH mill levy was originally intended to reimburse UNMH for indigent health care it provided and was not paid for.

While 98,000 indigent patients were treated at UNMH in 2013, that number has been dramatically reduced by the expansion of Medicaid and federal subsidies to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

For Fiscal Year 2016, according to UNMH, Bernalillo County indigents are now 8,400. Most formerly indigent patients now have health insurance (Medicaid), which means that UNMH is being paid for their care.

Last year, the state auditor reported that UNMH’s Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements increased by $190 million over the previous year.

Most New Mexico counties pay 1 to 3 mills to their county hospital for indigent care. In 2000, the Bernalillo County mill levy was 3.4 mills, but in 2001 it increased to the current rate of 6.5 mills.

Sandoval County imposed a 4.25 mill rate to construct hospitals and fund its indigent health care. Sandoval County has a lower tax base than Bernalillo County, yet it constructed a UNM Hospital in Rio Rancho and a Presbyterian Hospital in Rio Rancho and paid for its indigent health care.

In 2007, Lovelace Hospital offered UNMH its Gibson hospital for $1. This was a turnkey offer for an over-200 bed facility.

UNMH refused, planning instead to build a new hospital. In 2012, UNMH planned a 96-bed hospital expansion at an estimated cost of $146 million. At that time, UNMH reported $209 million in cash saved to build the hospital. Now UNMH proposes building a new hospital at a cost of $600 million, and claims to have over $300 million cash savings to build it.

The top seven UNMH administrators’ salaries and total compensation comprise almost 3 percent of the mill collected.

UNMH has also been spending a lot on advertising.

Why is UNMH advertising? A company advertises to increase its business. If this is true then UNMH does not need a new hospital. If this is not true, then UNMH is using tax dollars to support the passage of the mill question. This is wrong!

For the last 10 years I have tried to lower the mill rate to properly reflect the Bernalillo County indigent needs. UNMH has always opposed this.

Last year UNMH officials and I met. UNMH admitted it had $325 million in cash savings on hand. I requested that UNMH agree to lower the mill by some amount. UNMH was not interested.

I suggested keeping the mill rate at 6.5 for only three more years, which would give UNMH $600 million to build its new hospital. UNMH refused.

Remember all this when you hear from UNMH about how it needs this mill levy to stay open. Remind yourself that when you enter UNMH, it will be taking your medical insurance card to pay for services.

And according to fiscal impact reports of the Legislative Finance Committee, of those who remain uninsured and treated at UNMH, at least some are not even from Bernalillo County.

LFC stated: “Thus taxpayers in Bernalillo County are bearing a financial burden of providing health care services for the entire state.”

In addition to the current mill levy, UNMH receives a gross receipts tax collected in Bernalillo County.

Last year, the Bernalillo County Commission imposed another 3/8 cent gross receipts tax with most of the new tax going to UNMH.

I urge you to vote NO on this mill levy. Then perhaps UNMH will be willing to sit down and negotiate a proper mill levy rate.

Rep. William “Bill” Rehm is a candidate for New Mexico House District 31.

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