Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Boost sought for care tax

Group seeks increase to assist poor

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The backers of a special tax that covers hospital care for the poor are asking Hamilton County commissioners to increase the levy and place it on the May ballot.

        The Health and Hospitalization levy has generated more than $43 million a year since voters last approved the 4.73-mill tax in 1997.

        If the new amount is approved — first by commissioners, then by county voters — it will bring in more than $56 million a year from 2002 through 2006. About $7 million of that would go for other things, such as health care for inmates at the county jail and health care for indigent children.

        The Tax Levy Review Committee, a group of volunteers appointed by commissioners, will make a recommendation on the amount Feb. 1.

        Placing the issue on the May primary ballot, instead of the November general election ballot, will cost taxpayers about $600,000 if it is the only countywide issue, said Commissioner John Dowlin.

        “They want it on the May ballot so, if it fails, they'll get another bite at the apple,” he said.

        The new millage rate for the levy will be calculated by Auditor Dusty Rhodes' office later. Mr. Rhodes will calculate the millage necessary to raise the $56 million per year, along with the millage needed for any other amount the tax levy review committee recommends.

        Only then will commissioners know how much the levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home.

        In a letter to committee Chairman George Vincent, Al Tuchfarber, director of the University of Cincinnati Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research, said more than 70,000 county residents are eligible for support under the levy, with an average of about 40,000 people receiving help from the fund.

        As justification for the increase, Mr. Tuchfarber wrote that there has been no increase in funding since 1991, while the cost of medical care has increased about 48 percent over that period.

        Medical care inflation over the next five years is expected to increase by 4 percent, he wrote.


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