February 15, 2016 8:00 AM
State Representative Geoff Duncan (R-GA-26) is sponsoring a proposal to help the struggling hospitals of rural Georgia. House Bill 919, proposed by Duncan, would allow individuals and corporations to get a state tax credit for donating money to rural health care organizations. Duncan met with rural hospital officials at the State Capitol on Thursday to explain his legislation.
If the bill is ultimately approved, then $250 million in state tax credits per year would be available. The contributor can designate the specific organization that receives the donation, but it must be in a rural county and receive at least 25 percent of its net patient revenue from treating indigent patients. The individual who makes the donation would get a tax credit of 90 percent of the actual amount donated or $2,500 per tax year ($5,000 in the case of a married couple filing a joint return), whichever is less. A corporation or other entity that gives a contribution would be allowed a tax credit in an amount not to exceed 90 percent of the actual amount expended, or 75 percent of the corporation’s income tax liability, whichever is less.
Since the beginning of 2013, four rural hospitals have closed their doors in Georgia. Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe briefly closed in December and reopened in a downsized format. Others are struggling financially, for many of their patients are likely to be unemployed, insufficiently insured, or not insured at all, and are unable to pay their bills. Georgia is also a state that has not expanded Medicaid, which would extend coverage to more people, allowing more reimbursement for their health providers.
Jimmy Lewis, CEO of Hometown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia, stated that Duncan’s contribution idea had been “extremely well received” and that he did not know of such a program in another state.
Duncan, who represents Cumming, a wealthy suburban area north of Atlanta, is a surprising legislator to sponsor a bill to help organizations in rural areas. When asked why by Georgia Health News, he answered that his church was an influence, and that “the measure of a person’s wealth is in their philanthropy”.