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Bill Filed That May Make Counties More Accountable for Indigent Healthcare

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A state law allows counties to spend 8% of its tax revenue a year on people who can't afford health care. However, if all 8% isn't used, a loophole lets counties use the money for other things.

"We see counties setting the bar so high for eligibility requirements that they end up putting the entire 8% in their general budget," said state representative Fred Brown.

Brown filed House Bill 636. It states, counties must spend at least 6% on indigent care. If not, the counties must lower eligibility requirements.

Herman Sustayta manages health services for the Brazos Valley Council of Governments. He said if counties spend all 8% they are able to go back to the state for more money, which most of the time has none to give. Sustayta said if requirements are lowered, the result could put things on hold until the next fiscal year.

"If you add more clients, more medical bills, you payout more, You're probably going to spend that 8% more quickly and if there's no money at the state to continue the program running, then you're going to shut the program down because there is no money," said Sustayta.

"I did some analysis and of the 116 counties that fall under the county indigent program the average amount spent by the county judge is 4% so obviously the other 4% is going somewhere else," said Gentry Woodard with the Saint Joseph Regional Health Center.

The Saint Joseph Regional Health System spent over 50 million dollars in uncompensated care last year.

"It is a dilemma and like I say what the answer is I don't know, obviously something has to be done," said Sustayta.

Health Committees at the capital will see the bill next. The committees will decide whether it's worthy enough to go to the house floor.