Beginning next year, Polk Medical Center will be able to accept up to $4 million in donations for which donors will be allowed to receive tax credits.
That’s because PMC is among 48 rural hospitals across the state slated to receive aid through state Senate Bill 258, signed into law in April by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Statewide, some $50 million in tax credits will be available for donors to eligible rural hospitals in 2017, $60 million will be available in 2018 and $70 million in 2019.
To be eligible the medical facility must be in a rural county with a population under 35,000, be a nonprofit organization, and treat indigent patients or patients on Medicare or Medicaid.
PMC fell under those qualifications, and could receive a total of $4 million per year in donations, which is the cap for annual donations to a hospital.
“We were just notified this week that we were potentially going to participate in this program,” PMC Administrator Matt Gorman said. The hospital is managed by Floyd Medical Center in Rome. “Anything that can be done to help bolster rural healthcare in the state of Georgia is a positive thing.”
Eligible hospitals will be ranked through a needs-based assessment on the financial condition of each hospital, and a final list will be issued on Dec. 1.
Due to the recent reception of the news, Gorman said, a discussion considering how donations will be spent has begun, but what it will be specifically used for is still up in the air.
“One of the big campaigns that we have right now is what we call ‘Live Well Polk’ … it’s our initiative as a healthcare facility to reach out to the public and provide resources for wellness and education.”
The campaign provides education to patients through an online health library, where information on health conditions and treatments can be researched. “That’s one of the most likely ways that we will use contributions … where we’re reaching out to the community and providing better education and access to care,” Gorman added.
The program will last three years, Gorman said, unless further legislative action is taken to extend the program.
Any donations during that time would be welcome and appreciated, Gorman continued, but it doesn’t dispel concerns about the state of rural hospitals.
“In general there are more and more changes that are occurring in healthcare at a very rapid pace … (and) for small hospitals there aren’t the same resources to be able to accommodate those unfunded mandates that come through the federal government,” he said.
“Hospitals are being squeezed in terms of their revenue sources and without any action, currently at least, for the uninsured population in the state there’s not an offset for those payment reductions.”
Gorman is referring to changes under the Affordable Care Act impacting rural hospitals like PMC.
Rural hospitals, prior to the ACA, would receive federal “disproportionate share payments” to cover costs associated with patients failing to adequately pay their medical bills without insurance coverage, Gorman said.
“And for a lot of hospitals, especially those with a high Medicaid population, it was an important source of revenue.”
A Supreme Court ruling in 2012 stating Medicaid expansion or non-expansion would be decided at the state level trumped the presumption of the ACA that all states would expand the governmental health coverage, Gorman said.
Georgia’s legislature has opted out of expanding Medicaid and federal funding hasn’t made up for the lack of state level funding, Gorman added. That means rural hospitals haven’t been reimbursed adequately for treating patients without insurance.
As far as those donating to the 48 hospitals, for each tax year, an individual would receive a tax credit of $2,500 or 70 percent of what they donate, depending on which value is less. Married couples filing a joint tax return can receive 70 percent of the donated amount or $5,000.
Corporations donating can’t receive tax credits up to 70 percent of what they contribute or 75 percent of their income tax liability, whichever is less.
PMC is set up with “robust healthcare foundation” to assist in reaching out to potential donors, which is a resource other rural hospitals don’t have, Gorman said.
Other rural hospitals may reach out to third-party consulting firms to handle the administration of the donation program to “maximize the exposure of their facility to potential contributors,” he added.
Georgia Health News, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, tracks state medical issues on its website georgiahealthnews.com.