The Grand County Council voted 6-1 on Nov. 6 to commit that amount from the county’s revised 2013 budget; council chairman Gene Ciarus voted against the majority.
The hospital plans to use the county’s donation, along with other funding it has already lined up, to qualify for as much as $1.22 million in Medicaid subsidies.
Medicaid’s Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program reimburses hospitals for the costs they incur to care for low-income and uninsured patients. But the funding it hands out comes with strings attached.
In order to become eligible for the full amount, Moab Regional Hospital must raise $370,000 in “seed money.”
Up until 2011, the hospital could dip into its own funds for those matching dollars, but Medicaid now requires the hospital to turn elsewhere for help, according to MRH Board chairman Mike Bynum.
“Our hands are tied,” he told the county council Nov. 6. “The rules changed; we can’t change them.”
Representatives from the hospital first approached the county council for a cash infusion in early September. But their request came months into the county’s fiscal year, and council members held off on any action until they could figure out where any potential donation might come from.
The hospital eventually returned with a scaled-down request for up to $240,000. However, council member Elizabeth Tubbs said the board couldn’t find anything close to that amount in the county’s revised budget.
Ciarus noted that the council is pushing for changes to state laws, which could allow the hospital to collect more tax revenue. But he spoke out against the council’s vote to reach into the county’s general fund in the interim.
“I’m still opposed to using taxpayer money,” he said.
Bynum, however, called the arrangement a great deal for the county’s taxpayers. For every $3 that taxpayers contribute, they’ll get $7 back, he said.
The hospital needs the DSH money, he said, because it treats a disproportionate number of patients who cannot afford medical care.
“We can’t close our doors because someone doesn’t have any money, nor do we want to,” he said.
In the last three years alone, the hospital has provided $10.2 million in uncompensated care to the community, he said, including $8 million in uncompensated care to local taxpayers.
If it’s going to provide that care, though, Bynum said it needs the DSH money. Without it, the hospital would have lost a three-year net total of $4.25 million, he said.
This year’s DSH payments could vary, depending on the amount of matching dollars that the hospital raises between now and a looming Nov. 29 deadline.
In addition to the county’s contribution, the hospital has secured $30,000, and other donors previously came forward with another $100,000 in pledges, according to a memo from MRH CEO Robb Austin.