Public sounds off on indigent care levy

HAMILTON COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Monday night the public weighed in on how Hamilton County should shell out millions in tax payer dollars to help fund health care for those who simply cannot afford it.

Agencies across the county including major area hospitals and non profits stepped up to the microphone to argue their case for continued funding.

A county spokesperson says two reports have looked into the indigent care levy find out just how much money is needed and where it should go.

County commissioners will have the final say on the working of the levy that will be put to voters in November.

One man who spoke out Monday was a recipient of pancreatic transplant made possible by the levy. Six years ago to the day Larry McGonegle received the life saving surgery.

"Today I'm celebrating the birthday of my healthy young pancreas," McGonegle told Fox19 News.

"[The levy] will save a life," he said. "It saved mine. "

After battling diabetes for 30 years, on June 6 2005 McGonegle received a new pancreas and with it a new chance at life.

He says it only happened, however, with the help of the levy funding.

"Look at me," he said. "I'm alive and if it wasn't for the levy, like I said, I wouldn't be here today."

Last October McGonegle married the woman of his dreams.

"The day was almost as beautiful as my wife," he said looking down over their wedding album.

"Like they say: in sickness and in health," he added.

Despite vision loss that has left McGonegle without any peripheral sight, he makes the most of his new lease on life.

"Someday I want to do the Boston Marathon with my surgeon," he said looking down at a pile of medals won at area races.

"I've got lots of them," he said with a laugh, holding the tangle of ribbons.

Now slowed to a fast walk instead of a run, McGonegle says he will not stop moving forward.

"Its mind over body," he offered. "I just take one day at a time. That's all you can do: just take one day at a time."

The county says most of the groups coming forward who have received money in the past are not asking for more money this cycle, but rather just to keep the funding at their current levels.

Voters could be approving the funding for three years instead of five come November due to the federal healthcare reform act going into place.

Under the currently health and hospital levy county taxpayers who own homes worth 100,000 dollars will pay just under 50 dollars a year for the indigent care levy.

This year three agencies are coming forward hoping to get a piece of the levy funding for the first time.

The agencies include the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Cincinnati Health Department clinics, and the non-profit Homeless to Homes.

At St. Vincent De Paul they say with so many people losing jobs and health coverage, more people than ever are knocking on their door, unable to pay for prescription medications.

"It is a hard time to ask tax payers for money," Executive Director Liz Carter admitted. "We have never asked for tax payer dollars before, never in our entire history and we wouldn't now if we didn't see it as something extraordinarily important."

The three new agencies asking for money are vying for the funding alongside established recipients like UC Hospital and Children's Hospital.

The second of two public hearings will be held Wednesday at the Hamilton County Administration Building. The children's services levy will be discussed at that hearing at 5 p.m.

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