Jefferson Co. Commissioners look for indigent care solution - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Jefferson Co. Commissioners look for indigent care solution

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There's big pressure Tuesday for Jefferson County leaders. They'll work on how to handle Cooper Green Mercy Hospital's finances and how to pay for it all.

Tuesday's county commission meeting is certain to be a long one. The question is where is the county indigent care money actually going? Commissioners must decide how they will figure that out.

A group of state representatives, attorneys, and citizens have accused the county of "misappropriating funds," but the county's manager has said that's not true. The problem is that Cooper Green has not operated within its budget for the past several years and losing the occupational tax - left the county with little to support Cooper Green. Tuesday, county commissioners will find a way to better handle the cash.

The county has entertained several ideas on how to do that and the question has been whether to hire an outside consulting firm to identify the costs of those plans. 

"The study would tell us, of the models that have been presented, what are the ongoing capital costs, what are the ongoing operating costs, what's the advantage of that model, what is the disadvantage of that model and any impact to the affordable healthcare act on that model," Commission President David Carrington said.

Commissioner Carrington says the proposal to not use a study really comes down to the price tag.

"If it had been $50,000 maybe that would be a good study, but when you're talking $300,000 - is it going to make our decision that much better?" Carrington said.

So the decision will result in one of three things: either the commission will use the county CFO to take a more detailed look at indigent care money - or the commissioners will decide whether they have enough information to move forward - or they'll vote to hire an outside firm.

I am fairly confident we will reach a consensus tomorrow," Carrington said.



The Commission has also approved a forensic audit on the county's indigent care funds.  That audit will begin sometime after the commissioner's reach a decision Tuesday.