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Commissioner Brown addresses regional health care service

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Commissioner Ron Brown
On Monday, Dennis Robinson, Bill Dodson, Chad Adams and I attended the first meeting of a group established by HB 3154 to 'conduct public hearings regarding, and to study the implications of, implementing regional health care service to address indigent health care in the region.'

I don't think it was much of a surprise to anyone in the room the hospital operated by our neighbor to the north passed out a six-page proposal talking about all that they provide for all of their neighbors and complaining that we don't pay our fair share of their costs.

The following sentence is taken directly from that proposal: 'Ad valorem taxes could be assessed on a region, rather than simply a county, to support regional missions.'

I think I can safely say I am speaking for the rest of the court when I say we are opposed to giving this hospital the authority to tax the citizens of Ellis County.

Calculated at their 2006 tax rate and our 2006 property valuations, this would translate into a new tax burden of just under $22 million per year on the backs of Ellis County property owners.

Additionally, this kind of 'regionalization' would have a negative impact on our local hospitals by eliminating reimbursements they currently receive for indigent care.

In the push to gain the authority to tax Ellis County and other neighboring counties, these folks are claiming that Ellis County is not providing medical care for the indigent within our own community. This is absolutely not the truth.

In 1999, a group of concerned citizens put their heads together and started the Hope Clinic. The clinic is faith based. It has support from all over the county.

A large number of highly qualified doctors have volunteered their services at the clinic through the years.

The clinic has partnered with Baylor Hospital to provide folks with a place to follow up with the doctor after emergency room visits.

They have contracted with the county to serve the people that qualify for the county's indigent health program - and that's a partnership that has really made a difference in the community.

It's given the clinic an opportunity to serve a larger number of people throughout the community who don't qualify for county indigent.

And it's helped keep people from using the emergency room as their regular doctor's office.

Keeping non-emergency medical issues out of the emergency room is a top priority, because it is a big factor in driving the cost of medical care up for all of us.

The clinic's executive director, Mackie Owens, and the board of directors are continually working to improve things.

In fact, they were recently awarded a grant through the state that will help them work toward becoming a 'Federally Qualified Health Center' - which will expand their service to this county even further.

I'm not pretending that we've found the silver bullet for health care, but we have certainly made some progress. The progress we've made, we've made as a community, working together, and I am confident that this will continue.

A $22 million tax bill from our neighbor to the north will hurt, not help, and that's why we are standing against it.
We'll try to keep the readers updated along the way.

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