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More discussions needed on Hospital District

Editorial by Dawn Burleigh

 

Orange County Commissioners Court is striving to relay the information they have on how to form a Hospital District, however, the unknowns are frightening.

While I cannot say I am opposed to the district, I am not 100-percent on board as yet.

Do we need a hospital? Yes. We need a facility the citizens can trust and know they will be seen with or without insurance. The need for more specialized care has been a need in Orange County for a long time. Too many times, citizens have to find a way to travel to Beaumont, Houston, or Lake Charles to receive care they should be able to obtain here. This dilemma also takes money out of our county which affects the overall economic health of the county.

Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce has, for years now, tried to educate the public on the importance of shopping locally. This should also apply to our medical needs.

Baptist Hospital is a privately owned facility which operates to create a profit. A business owner can understand the struggle of trying to balance profit and quality.

However, citizens have asked for better medical care by taking their business elsewhere; an act which affected the profits of the local hospital.

While, I personally believe, the hospital did strive to improve the facilities in recent years, it was after the closing of departments.

At this time, without any changes of the way things are currently, the last child born in Orange will be Sevyn Hancock. Hancock was born January 3, 2013 just months before the hospital announced the closing of the obstetric services because of the loss of disproportionate share funding which helped offset costs. Subsidies have been continually reduced since the creation of the Affordable Care Act, when health-care officials expected millions of uninsured U.S. citizens to obtain coverage but has not been the case, according to an article published in The Orange Leader in 2015.

Which brings up the next obstacle according to several citizens at the two Town Hall meetings held last week, those who do not want their tax dollars paying for indigent care.

Orange County tax dollars already pay for indigent care at $400,000 -$600,000 a year according to Orange County Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton. With a hospital district, the district will be responsible for paying for the care instead of the county. A district would also be available for state and federal funding which the county is not currently eligible.

How to fund the district also has people nervous. I can understand as the cap rate, the highest amount the district can have, is high at 75 cents per $100 based on property value. The fact the board, the yet unformed board, will be responsible for setting the rate is not helping plead the case for the need of the district. The first members of the board will be selected by the court, but we will be able to voice our opinion when it is time to vote for those positions. The tax rate has to be approved by the voters. We may not know the rate at this time but before it can be implemented, we will have an opportunity to vote on it. State legislation states if the amount increases by more than two percent, it has to be approved by the majority of the voters.

 

Dawn Burleigh is editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com