New program could bring millions

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

Morgan Memorial Hospital (MMH) is one of 39 rural hospitals across the State of Georgia that’s included in a new statewide tax-credit program that will benefit donors to rural hospitals beginning in January of 2017.

“This bill has the potential to make a significant impact on the financial bottom-line of Morgan Memorial as well as other rural hospitals across Georgia,” said Ralph Castillo, MMH CEO.  “While we’ve done an excellent job of managing finances at MMH and don’t find ourselves in the dire situation that some rural hospitals do, we are still providing over $2 million in uncompensated care to local citizens each year.  We are the largest local non-profit and charitable support is crucial for our continued success.  This program provides an added incentive for considering Morgan Memorial when making decisions for which charitable organizations to support.”

Georgia Senate Bill 258, passed last spring, provides tax credits, not deductions, for individuals and corporations that contribute to rural hospitals. For an individual, that tax credit will be for 70 percent of the amount expended or $2,500, whichever is less. For a married couple filing jointly, the tax credit will be for 70 percent of the amount expended or $5,000, whichever is less. For corporations, the tax credit will not exceed 70 percent of the amount expended or 75 percent of tax liability, whichever is less.

“We view this bill as a ‘win’ for both our local taxpayers and our local, community hospital.  The tax credit opportunity gives taxpayers the ability to essentially direct where their tax monies are going.  By participating, monies that individuals would normally pay in state taxes for general use can stay in the community and help support a local economic engine that we all have the potential to benefit from…our community hospital,” said Megan Morris, director of development and community relations.

Georgia House Representative Geoff Duncan devised the plan, hoping to stimulate financial giving to rural hospitals, many of which are

struggling to stay open.

“It’s been extremely gratifying to watch the Rural Healthcare Reform Bill go from just an idea I had while sitting in church last October, all the way to a powerful tool for rural Georgia to help save its local healthcare systems,” said Duncan. “This innovative piece of legislation has put Georgia at the forefront of the national conversation for rural healthcare reform and has positioned our state to bring broader healthcare solutions to the table on a national level.”

According to state press release, donations of up to $4 million to an approved rural hospital will be eligible for the tax credits, which will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. The statewide cap of tax credits will be $50 million in 2017, $60 million in 2018, and $70 million in 2019. The program is set to expire after three years. Because of the annual caps, tax credits must be preapproved. Interested taxpayers must submit an online form (FORM IT-QRHOE-TP1) to the Georgia Tax Center prior to making a donation and then report the actual amount of each donation within 30 days.

According to The Atlanta Business Chronicle, “the amount of tax credits available was lowered from $100 million annually to $50 million in the first year, 2017. The amount for the second year will be $60 million, and for the third year, $70 million.”

MMH meets the criteria for the program, which includes submitting a five-year plan about its financial viability and stability. MMH will have to submit monthly reports of donations received and how the money is spent. Then hospitals just have to submit monthly reports of donations received and how the money was spent.

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, who was on the conference committee that worked out the final provisions in Senate Bill 258, said it’s important that 100 percent of the donated money go directly to the rural hospitals rather than to consultants.

“In working with Geoff to get final passage of the bill, our intention was that every dollar raised for the hospitals would go to stabilize them and not set up a program requiring them to hire staff or consultants in order to participate,” Rep. England (R-Auburn) said. “Geoff has continued to work with the departments of Revenue and Community Health to make the process simple and easy, both for the taxpayers and the hospitals. I expect this program to have a sustaining impact on rural health care in Georgia for generations to come.”

House Ways & Means Committee Chair Jay Powell, who also served on the conference committee ironing out the final provisions of the legislation, agreed.

“I can’t say enough about Geoff Duncan’s novel approach to rural health care,” said Rep. Powell (R-Camilla). “This program creates a true public-private partnership in support of our struggling rural hospitals. The program was designed so that all of the money would be used to support the hospitals with very little administrative effort required. There should be no need for any hospital to have to hire personnel or contract with outside consultants in order to take advantage of this program.”

The hospitals listed below have been determined to qualify for the Rural Hospital Tax Program for Calendar Year 2017 based on current information. The final approved list will be posted Dec. 1 on the DCH website.

Appling Hospital, Bacon County Hospital, Bleckley Memorial Hospital, Brooks County Hospital, Candler County Hospital, Chatuge Regional Hospital, Clinch Memorial Hospital, Cook Medical Center, Crisp Regional Hospital, Dodge County Hospital, Donalsonville Hospital, Inc., Effingham Hospital, Elbert Memorial Hospital, Emanuel Medical Center, Evans Memorial Hospital, Grady General Hospital, Higgins General Hospital, Irwin County Hospital, Jasper Memorial Hospital, Jeff Davis Hospital, Jefferson Hospital, Liberty Regional Medical Center, Meadows Regional Medical Center, Memorial Hospital of Bainbridge, Miller County Hospital, Mitchell County Hospital, Monroe County Hospital, Morgan Memorial Hospital, Phoebe Dorminy Medical Center, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, Phoebe Worth Medical Center, Piedmont Mountainside Medical Center, Polk Medical Center, Putnam General Hospital, South Georgia Medical Center (Berrien Campus, South Georgia Medical Center, Lanier Campus, Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center), St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital, St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital, Stephens County Hospital, Sylvan Grove Hospital, Taylor Regional Hospital, Union General Hospital, University Hospital McDuffie, Upson Regional Medical Center, Warm Springs Medical Center and Washington County Regional Medical Center.

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