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East County Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 4 years ago

Manatee County to consider ordinance calling for sales tax hike vote for indigent health care

by: Josh Siegel Staff Writer

Manatee County commissioners voted 5-2 Thursday, to consider an ordinance calling for a referendum asking the public to OK a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for indigent health care.

Vanessa Baugh, District 5 commissioner, and Betsy Benac, at-large commissioner, voted against the motion, citing insufficient information and poor timing.

The commission will consider the ordinance at its March 12 meeting, when it will also receive a written plan from the Manatee County Health Care Alliance and county staff about how to best dedicate resources to health care’s rising costs.

The alliance has worked with health-care providers and public-health professionals at the University of South Florida over the last 15 months during six workshops, many of whom presented their findings at Thursday’s special meeting.

Money raised from the sales-tax increase would help address a shortage of primary-care providers to help preventive care become more available to more people, presenters said.

The focus on preventive care would decrease inappropriate emergency room visits and preventable hospitalizations, two types of costly care that Manatee County is too dependent upon.

The health-care funding talk comes as a $40 million funding source for indigent health care — most of which came from the sale of Manatee Memorial Hospital, then called Manatee Veterans Memorial Hospital, to a private business — will soon dry up.

Karen Windon, deputy county administrator, says the account will be depleted by 2015.

At the special meeting, several commissioners said they were skeptical of the proposal because it did not include a detailed, written plan to solve problems that the uninsured and the underinsured bring to local medical facilities.

See the agenda for the special meeting here.

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