Bill boosting rural hospital tax credit passes House

Like many other rural hospitals in the U.S., Evans Memorial Hospital in Claxton, Ga., has struggled to keep its doors open while treating patients who tend to be older, poorer and often uninsured.

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Like many other rural hospitals in the U.S., Evans Memorial Hospital in Claxton, Ga., has struggled to keep its doors open while treating patients who tend to be older, poorer and often uninsured.

The Georgia House on Tuesday voted to boost the value of a rural hospital tax credit while also placing new limits on how profitable they can be to outside consultants.

Senate Bill 180 passed the House 170-0. It must return to the Senate for consideration.

The bill increases from 70 percent to 90 percent the value of the credit taxpayers can earn from contributions to qualifying rural hospitals.

Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, in 2016 championed a plan to create the tax credit program at 90 percent, but the Senate balked. A 70 percent compromise was signed into law, but the reduced value of the credit has limited their popularity.

The bill also puts a 3 percent cap on how much consultants who help attract donors can be paid.

The AJC reported in December that a Metro Atlanta consultant has signed up to work for about three-fourths of the rural hospitals eligible to receive the donations, much to the consternation of some leading lawmakers.

Jim Kelly, who heads the Georgia HEART Hospital Program and also founded a state tax-credit-funded organization for private school scholarships, said that in the past few months he has signed up 32 of the 49 eligible rural hospitals.

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