University Hospital faces levy cuts

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Commissioners have voted on the way health care for those who can't pay for it will be funded for the next three years.  Now the issue will go before voters Nov. 8 pending a final Commission vote on Wednesday.

The indigent care and children's services levy, as given initial approval Monday, would reduce funding to University Hospital and Children's Hospital from $46 million dollars to just under $40 million dollars over the life of the levy.

The millage rate for the children's services levy will remain the same, but the millage rate for the indigent care levy - which is what University Hospital relies on - will be reduced from 4.49 to 4.31.  That means the owner of a $100,000 home in the county will have to pay $4.13 less per year.

Both levies faced the prospect of less funding even without a change from Commissioners in the millage rate, because of how property has devalued in Hamilton County, and because of budget cuts at the state and federal levels.  But Monday's vote means University Hospital will ultimately have to operate on about 14% less reimbursement for indigent care than it does today, with an indigent population that many say will only go up, at least until federal health care changes go into effect.

University Hospital issued this statement today from Tony Condia, Vice President of University Hospital & UC Health:  "The funding level established for University Hospital is the product of compromise. Our next step is to work with the commissioners to determine how we can most effectively manage this reduction and to identify innovative ways that will enable us to recast our overall partnership with the County, both as its sole provider of adult indigent care and also through Drake Center, so that we will be able to position that hospital more favorably for long-term success while maintaining its historic mission."

Commissioner Todd Portune was the dissenting vote on the indigent care levy, and told his fellow Commissioners, "Now is not the time to be saving taxpayers the cost of a latte or a happy meal, little more than a penny a day, when so many taxpayers have weighed in and said while we appreciate the effort, it's really not meaningful tax relief, and now's not the time to cut."

But Commission President Greg Hartmann spoke with FOX19 after the vote, and said in the end, it came down to dollars and cents.

"People acted like it was not a big deal to raise $10 per hundred thousand dollars of value, which is what keeping everything the same would have been. I think that's a mistake in this economy," said Hartmann.

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