May 14, 2013 2:35 AM by Sean Mooney
TUCSON - The Tucson city council will consider a tax hike called the "Access To Care" tax to cover Tucson's uninsured. But the tax's targets, local hospitals, actually endorse the plan.
Uncompensated care at Arizona hospitals totaled nearly three quarters of a billion dollars last year, a 70 percent increase over 2011. Hospitals here in Tucson have been hit especially hard but ironically it is the hospitals that have asked the City Council to consider imposing the tax on them.
According to Tucson City Councilman, Steve Kozachik, local hospitals now believe they can alleviate some of those costs of uncompensated care by actually charging themselves a tax per patient, "The hospitals have said, let us access ourselves a tax", he said, "they will take that money and match it two for one with money coming from the federal government. That will help them cover the uncompensated care dollars they are now paying out.
That federal money is medicaid funds. The self assessed tax will apparently allow hospitals to use that money for the same purpose pay down uncompensated care. Tucson City Manager, Richard Miranda says it's an idea that is catching on, "Some of the state entities are asking municipalities to take a look at a tax that will provide some relief in terms of providing for supplemental revenues for that issue"
Steve Kozachik says If the "Access To Care" tax is implemented city residents do not have to worry about a higher tax burden, "It is not going to cost city residents anything, its not going to cost patients in hospitals anything, the hospitals are asking us to do this for them."
The city of Phoenix has already approved a similar ordinance. The "Access To Care" tax proposal is expected to be on the agenda at tomorrows city council meeting.