Hospital Medicaid financing program passes Ga. senate

ATLANTA — The Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, passed the Georgia State Senate today with a vote of 46 to 9.

Senate Bill 24 will authorize the Department of Community Health to establish a financial structure to protect Georgia’s healthcare system and obtain additional federal funding for the state’s Medicaid program. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton.

“A failure to pass SB 24 would mean devastating cuts in reimbursement rates for medical providers,” Bethel said in a release. “Hospitals could face up to a 32% percent reduction in Medicaid reimbursements, which could also mean a loss of services and jobs. The impact of hospital closures and layoffs as a result of reduced reimbursements on rural communities and local job markets would be devastating.”

The bill allows the Department of Community Health to continue assessing an existing small fee – not to exceed the percentage of net patient revenues as allocated by the state budget – in order to ensure Medicaid rates remain at current levels and give Georgia the flexibility needed to react quickly and efficiently to changes in federal health care policy.

Collected fees will be deposited into a segregated account within the already existing Indigent Care Trust Fund, and will not be merged with the general fund. The legislation mirrors a structure that Georgia nursing homes have successfully operated under for more than a decade and is supported by hospital providers statewide.

The Board of Community Health will be responsible for drafting the framework and regulations necessary collect the fee, but the Georgia General Assembly will retain oversight and veto authority of all administrative decisions. If signed into law, SB 24 will become effective on July 1, 2013 and sunset on June 30, 2017.

The Georgia General Assembly first passed provider fee legislation in 2010, including a tax cut for Georgia seniors and the elimination of the state’s portion of ad valorem property taxes. Today, Georgia taxpayers continue to benefit from over $100 million in annual tax cuts as a result of those provisions.

SB 24 will now transfer to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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