published Monday, June 20th, 2011

Erlanger may take blow with loss of sales tax deal


by Chris Carroll

Erlanger Health System awarded $1.7 million in executive bonuses but had to absorb $82 million in uncompensated care costs in fiscal 2010.

Now the hospital is making a last push to get its usual slice of public funding.

Since 1976, Erlanger has received money from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County sales tax agreement to treat indigent county residents. For years, the annual allotment has been $3 million.

That changed when the agreement expired in May. County Mayor Jim Coppinger’s proposed 2012 budget has only $1.5 million for Erlanger.

Now the public hospital, which turned a profit the last two years, potentially faces a $1.5 million budget hole if the city won’t make up the difference.

But Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and the City Council have expressed reluctance to include Erlanger in the list of quasi-governmental agencies it will support now.

Doug Fisher, vice president of governmental and community affairs for the hospital, criticized what he saw as a lack of initiative from local officials.

“It’s a game of chicken between the city and the county,” he said. “We’re the ones that lose.”

Chattanooga City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said funding from the city is “pretty much off the table.”

“[Erlanger has] been successful,” she said. “Perhaps they can look at scaling back some, like we’re all having to do.”

A total of 110 management-level Erlanger employees split $1.7 million in bonus payments in October 2009. Last December, total bonuses rose to $1.9 million.

But the government funding game isn’t over. City and county lawmakers have yet to approve their budgets, and those deliberations typically take a few weeks — plenty of time for Fisher to make his case to local elected officials, he said.

“We’re not giving up yet,” he said. “We’re not taking it lightly.”

Fisher said it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how the hospital’s indigent program would be affected by a lack of funding, which covers everything from “the working poor” to gang members with gunshot wounds.

“I’m not sure that really matters because the reality is, we continue with our mission,” he said, adding that Erlanger hasn’t begun considering how to pool extra money if local governments don’t pony up.

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mrredskin said...

stop "treating" patients without insurance for BS issues like nosebleeds and you save millions.

June 20, 2011 at 8:42 a.m.
rt said...

Single-payer healthcare will save BILLIONS...!!!

June 20, 2011 at 12:33 p.m.
nucanuck said...

The city residents support Erlanger through their county taxes. This is properly a County/Erlanger issue.

June 20, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.
nucanuck said...

L4F,

My family of six live with single payer health care here in Canada. Virtually every claim you make is contrary to our experience here.

Canada spends 60% as much per person, we chose our own doctors, we get prompt effective treatment, and it's available to all. The system here is a private system with a public single payer. After four years, we rate the Canadian system better than what we had in Chattanooga. That is not to say that the system is perfect. Cost constraints are a fact of life for all health care systems. And yes I know a guy who has had to wait 18 months for a knee replacement, but it was not an emergency...he can walk,not run, now.

Emergency treatment is fast, no clogged waiting rooms.

You really should get the facts before railing against what you don't fully understand.

June 20, 2011 at 5:09 p.m.
Tilley said...

Erlanger wouldn't have to have our money if they would back off from the bonsus. What they paid out in bonsus would take care of what they are asking from the tax payers. And, Erlanger is improperly used....people should be denied for silly things that they should go to a primary care doctor, instead of clogging up the emergency system. This hospital is so abused by "deadbeats", that when I was severly injured in a horrible car accident, I panicked when they said "transport to Erlanger". I refused, and I was in/out of consciousness, and on IV's, head bleedly badly...requested to go to Memorial.

June 20, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.
nucanuck said...

When you don't have universal health care, the uninsured have to go somewhere for care and the emergency room is about all that is available. The system works well for those woth great insurance plans...until they get laid-off and find out what life can be like with no place to turn.

Most of the developed world have better systems. IMO.

June 20, 2011 at 6:34 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Thank the idiot Mayor Ron Littlefield and his "rubberstamp city council" for this mess.

June 20, 2011 at 10:47 p.m.
nucanuck said...

MasterChefLen,

I'm no supporter of Mayor Littlefield, but he has the high ground on this issue.

June 20, 2011 at 11:05 p.m.
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