Legislators hear from constituents: hospital tax a bad idea

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) invited area legislators to the hospital on Monday morning to share with them almost 1,500 postcards sent by area residents.

The postcards were filled out in response to the hospital’s plea for help in convincing the Administration that the planned tax on hospitals would hurt hospitals and local communities and increase the cost of insurance.

Senators Sears and Hartwell, and Representatives Botzow, Mook, and  Morrissey were present to peruse the constituent mail and discuss the situation with hospital CEO Harvey Yorke and other staff.

Bennington County Legislators look over nearly 1500 cards from citizens voicing their concern about the $16 million hospital tax.

Vice President Kevin McDonald said of the event: "We’re here to thank the almost 1500 residents of our service area who came to our aid in expressing their displeasure with the Administration’s proposal to tax hospitals in excess of the amount that the state can pay back.

We are here to pass on their statements of support on this issue to our area legislators.

Late last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a budget that helps compensate for the tax by raising reimbursements to hospitals for Medicaid in FY 2009, and for this reason we are asking our legislators to support passage of the House budget. 

In the longer term, though, ensuring fair and sustainable health care financing for Vermont’s health care system is a shared goal that we must work toward and setting the provider tax in balance with the state’s ability to return it to our communities is an essential."

The Administration's original proposal changed a long-standing policy of Republican and Democratic administrations alike to tax hospitals to raise additional funds to be used to boost the Federal match.

The policy has been to set the provider tax at a rate that matches the amount of money that the state is then allowed to give back to providers in the form of Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments to help cover the cost of care to low income patients — and no higher. When the Administration's initial proposal broke this compact, hospitals decided to mobilize, and call upon their communities to help make the case.

In the Bennington area, they certainly responded.