Williamson County approves new fund for indigent health care


Highlights

Williamson County Commissioners Court approved collecting payments from local hospitals.

Payments from local hospitals will receive matching funds from federal government.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court on Tuesday unanimously approved collecting mandatory payments from area hospitals to help pay for indigent care.

Commissioners haven’t decided on how much they will ask hospitals to pay, but the county is legally allowed to ask for up to 6 percent of a hospital’s net revenue from patients. This means the county could collect an estimated $10 million to $15 million from its 10 local hospitals a year, said Carlos Zaffirini, chief executive officer of Adelanto Healthcare Ventures, a consulting company.

The collections would help the county qualify for federal matching money to cover health care for poor residents.

Zaffirini — who has been working with local hospitals on the plan — said the federal government will match every dollar the county collects for the program with $1.50. He said there is $30 million available in matching federal money for a region that includes Travis, Hays and Bastrop counties.

Travis County does not participate in the program — called a local provider participation fund, he said. Hays, Bell and 18 other Texas counties are already involved in it, Zaffirini said.

Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey said she hopes the program can reduce the $5.4 million the county pays annually for indigent care. “We have talked about reducing our uncompensated care by $1 million,” she said.

READ: Police: Georgetown woman lied about income to get free health care

The federal government mandates that anyone who shows up at a hospital emergency room has to be treated, whether they can pay for health care or not, Commissioner Cynthia Long said.

A spokesperson for St. David’s Healthcare — which has at least two hospitals in Williamson County — declined to comment. Other hospitals and health care systems with facilities in Williamson County, including Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, Baylor Scott & White Health and Seton Healthcare Family, did not return requests for comment.

“Scott and White and Seton and Cedar Park Regional Medical Center currently support using it (participation fund) to claim all the federal money,” said Zaffirini, who has been talking to some of the health care systems.

The money from the fund can be used for indigent health care projects, such as expanding clinic hours to keep people out of emergency rooms and used to help pay for costs that Medicaid doesn’t cover, Zaffirini said.

The Commissioners Court will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Williamson County Courthouse, 710 Main St. in Georgetown, before setting the rate at which the hospitals will be required to make payments.

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