Hospital ‘provider fee’ bill gains final OK

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Legislation needed to renew a fee on Georgia hospitals to help close a more than $900 million gap in Medicaid funding is on its way to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

The state House on Friday voted 152-14 to give final approval to Senate Bill 70which authorizes the Department of Community Health board to levy the fee for another three years. The board is expected to do so quickly if Deal signs the bill into law, as expected.

Deal last month exhorted lawmakers to keep the fee, which was instituted in 2010 and subsequently renewed in 2013 despite some lawmakers’ complaints about it being a “bed tax.”

The fee directly raises more than $300 million a year. But the state uses that money to qualify for $600 million in matching federal funds giving the bill a $900 million annual impact on the state’s Medicaid budget.

Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, acknowledging complaints from some that the provider fee could become obsolete if Congress abolishes the Affordable Care Act, said safeguards are built in.

The DCH board “currently has the authority to reduce or do away with collection of they payment under existing law,” Efstration said.

But Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, said that when the fee was first created in 2010 it was intended to be temporary. He supported a version of the bill that extended it for just one year.

"It was promised we would eventually end it,” Turner said. “I want to challenge you, even if you vote yes on this, to work together to find a way to land this aircraft. Times are going to change.”