Hospital tax approved in Phoenix

December 11, 2012

Phoenix hospitals will pay a new tax, under an ordinance approved Tuesday by the Phoenix City Council in a 6-3 vote. Supporters say it will bring in $200 million in federal money to help hospitals care for people without insurance.

The Phoenix Access to Care Ordinance will tax local hospitals, and then pool that money, in order to bring in a two-to-one federal match. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said health care is important to the city, and state’s economy, and that uncompensated care shouldn’t put city hospitals at a competitive disadvantage.

"This ordinance will help our local hospitals protect the right kind of jobs. Not just doctors, although doctors are incredibly important. But, nurses, physician assistants, the other para-professionals that make a great health care system, make a great hospital system," Stanton said. "It’s great for jobs, it’s great for economic development."

Linda Hunt, the CEO of Dignity Health Arizona, told the council that health care is a major economic engine in the state.

"Throughout the economic downturn, hospitals were able to cut costs, and improve our efficiencies and look at better ways to treat people," Hunt said. "But, when we had all the changes that occurred, none of us were prepared for the unexpected flood of individuals who were uninsured who came to our facilities."

This plan is similar to one that was proposed statewide. The legislature did not approve that, but did allow cities to take actions like this one.

There are still a few approvals needed before the tax can be implemented, but supporters are optimistic those can be taken care of quickly. The tax would be collected through the end of next year at the latest.

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