It’s no secret Georgia’s rural hospitals have been facing financial crisis.
To help support the growing financial needs of Georgia’s rural and critical access hospitals, like Archbold’s Brooks County Hospital (BCH), Grady General Hospital (GGH) and Mitchell County Hospital (MCH), Georgia legislators introduced The Rural Hospital Tax Credit bill (State Bill 258). The bill, which passed in 2016, offers a rare state tax credit to Georgia taxpayers and C-Corporations that donate funds through the Georgia HEART Hospital Program to rural hospitals the Georgia Department of Community Health has determined to have financial need. Donors who participate in the tax credit program receive a 90 percent tax credit on their contributions to the hospital of their choice.
In 2017, the inaugural year of the program, Archbold’s three qualifying hospitals received a combined $349,405 in donations through the new tax credit program. The donations made to each hospital were designated to help specifically fund healthcare-related expenses.
Archbold’s Grady General Hospital in Cairo used 2017 funds to help with the recruitment of physicians to serve in the Grady County community.
“In developing our plan for how we’d use the money donated to our hospital through this program, we knew immediately supporting physician recruitment was a top priority for us,” said Crystal Wells, GGH administrator. “Recruiting physicians to a small community can be challenging, but it’s very important. We knew we wanted to use the funds donated to help bring high quality physicians to help us continue to meet the healthcare needs of Cairo and Grady County.”
Hospitals in rural communities often have higher uninsured populations with lower income. And when patients are unable to pay their hospital bills, the hospitals are burdened with absorbing those expenses (bad debt).
“Offsetting bad debt is a serious challenge for hospitals in small, rural communities, like Mitchell County Hospital,” said Jamie Womack, MCH administrator. “The funds MCH received in 2017 from the Georgia Heart Program were designated to help offset costs the hospital had absorbed for helping uninsured patients over several years. It’s important for donors to know how their generosity makes a big impact. The generous contributions to this program are helping us to be able to continue providing the best care options to patients who need it in Mitchell County.”
It’s common in rural areas for uninsured patients to rely on their local hospital’s emergency room as their primary source of healthcare instead of establishing a relationship with a primary care physician. This method of healthcare delivery isn’t the most efficient or cost-effective option, especially when a patient’s condition could be treated less expensively outside the hospital setting.
Archbold’s Brooks County Hospital used donations through the tax credit program to help establish a partnership with a new Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that would provide patients greater access to primary care in Brooks County.
“Recent recommendations from a consultant group who studied health needs in our community focused on looking for ways to re-structure healthcare delivery, in particular primary care, in Brooks County,” said Nancy Williams, administrator at Brooks County Hospital. “One of the recommendations was that we partner with a regional FQHC to provide a more sustainable path for primary care options in our community.”
Primary Care of Southwest Georgia, a community-based practice established as a result of the partnership with BCH, began serving patients in Brooks County in 2017. The practice provides primary care services on a sliding fee scale based on a patient’s ability to pay.
According to the Georgia HEART Hospital Program, in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Georgia tax credit program makes $60 million of income tax credits available to Georgia taxpayers, with each qualified rural hospital having access to $4 million of tax credits (until the total annual $60 million cap is met).
With respect to contributions that taxpayers make to qualified rural hospitals, the following limits apply:
· In the case of a single individual or a head of household, 90 percent of the actual amount expended or $5,000 per tax year, whichever is less.
· In the case of a married couple filing a joint return, 90 percent of the actual amount expended or $10,000 per tax year, whichever is less.
· A C-Corporation or Trust may receive a 90 percent tax credit on contributions, up to a limit of 75 percent of the entity’s Georgia income tax liability.
“Participating in this program not only allows our hospitals to continue providing quality, patient-centered care, but it also is beneficial to the donor,” said Vann Middleton, President of the Archbold Foundation. “Through the tax credit program, donors are able to decide where their state income tax dollars are directed. This will help keep those tax dollars in our local communities, which has the potential to make a significant impact on healthcare in these small communities.”
For more information on the Georgia HEART program, visit www.georgiaheart.org or contact Vann Middleton, President of the Archbold Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 229.228.2924. The deadline to contribute for a 2018 tax credit is December 31.