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'No agenda item exists': Macon-Bibb Hospital Authority says it will not ask county for tax money to pay for indigent care

Macon-Bibb County helped Atrium Health Navicent pay for people without insurance for years, before the payments stopped last year.

MACON, Ga. — Macon-Bibb County's Hospital Authority now says it will not ask the county for a cut of its tax revenue to help pay for indigent care.

That's care for patients who don't have insurance. Earlier this month, our partners at Mercer's Center for Collaborative Journalism (CCJ) reported it seemed they were about to make the proposal to the county commission.

Monday evening, the authority sent 13WMAZ a statement saying they never planned to ask the county for any additional money. Instead, they say it was just an idea brought up in a regular meeting, and part of an educational session.

"Let's just say I think it would be an interesting meeting if they showed up in my office with that request," is what Mayor Lester Miller said on the subject during a recent episode of Central Georgia Focus.

It came just days after our CCJ partners reported the authority may ask for some help treating patients without insurance. Now, the hospital authority, which helps run Atrium Health Navicent, says that's not happening. They say, 'No action to seek additional funding from Macon-Bibb County was voted upon, and no agenda item exists for a future meeting.'

The county helped with indigent care costs for years, but the payments dwindled until they stopped last year, when the county gave them $50,000 in the 2021 budget. Miller says the authority can recover costs from other pools. He also says they get additional county benefits because of their non-profit status.

"Certainly, we're supporters of theirs," he said, talking with CCJ's Liz Fabian. "You mentioned earlier that they don't pay any taxes on any of their properties. Certainly they possess a lot of properties in Macon-Bibb County, so I think that's a break they get."

13WMAZ found records of about 96 tax-exempt hospital authority properties. The total they save in taxes comes out to more than $2 million.

Even though the hospital authority says they don't plan to ask for any money right now, they could choose to in the future. That's thanks to a Georgia law that allows local governments to put a certain portion of property tax revenue toward funding non-profit hospitals.

CCJ reports last year, Atrium Health Navicent reported nearly $80 million in indigent care costs. According to records from the Georgia Department of Community Health, they recovered more than $9 million from the state between 2018 and 2019.

The hospital authority's full statement reads as follows:

“The Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority does not plan at this time to request additional funding from Macon-Bibb County. The authority conducted a routine education session during the body’s Nov. 17 meeting in which new and established board members were advised of the history of local, state and federal indigent care funding which some hospitals receive. No action to seek additional funding from Macon-Bibb County was voted upon, and no agenda item exists for a future meeting.”

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