Commissioners support provider fee

ALAMOSA—Colorado's hospital provider fee, which reimburses hospitals based on the number of uninsured and Medicaid patients, is currently part of the state's general fund and subject to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). San Luis Valley Health, with the support of Alamosa County Commissioners, is looking to change that at the Colorado General Assembly.

Every Colorado hospital puts money into a pool that is then matched by the federal government. That money is then redistributed to the hospitals that need it the most based on the population they serve. The current movement is to give the fee an Enterprise Zone status and remove it from the general fund.

SLV Health Public Relations and Marketing Director Donna Wehe asked the commissioners for their support as a public comment during Wednesday's meeting. "Our hospital receives a bigger benefit than what we put in based on the fact that we have a lot of Medicaid clients and indigent care in our area," Wehe said. "That's typical for a lot of rural hospitals."

Wehe argued that the money is important because the state's healthcare budget is shrinking. "Governor Hickenlooper's budget is going to cut $195 million for healthcare and when you look at leaving that federal match off the table, that's a $400 million dollar cut for healthcare in our state," said Wehe. "Our local hospital stands to lose about $4 million in the next fiscal cycle."

SLV Health is a nonprofit hospital that has already cut $1.5 million from its budget.

"We're not like the for-profit hospitals on the Front Rage that might not feel the effects of this cut as much as we would," Wehe said. "Facing a budget cut like this forces us to make difficult choices.”

The letter of support was later signed during the board and staff updates portion of the meeting. The hospital has received 130 letters of support, including one from Colorado Springs City Mayor John Suthers.

"We should support this," said Alamosa County Commissioner Helen Sigmond. "It's certainly critical for our area to have a hospital that can afford to be in the business."