Thursday, September 19, 2002

Students watch $272 million in action

County commissioners take weekly meeting to Turpin High School

By Dan Klepal,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More than 100 Turpin High School seniors got a real-life civics lesson Wednesday when Hamilton County's commissioners took their weekly meeting to the school's auditorium in Anderson Township.

        The American government students watched commissioners approve a new contract with University Hospital and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center that will dole out about $272 million to the two hospitals over the next five years. That will help defray the cost of medical expenses for poor people.

        The levy, passed by voters in November at a 25-percent increase over the last five-year cycle, will generate some $42.3 million every year for the two hospitals. The rest of the levy — about $64 million over its lifetime — is used by the county for other health care programs.

        Hamilton County staff has been negotiating the contract with hospital officials for months.

        Top hospital officials at TriHealth, which includes Bethesda North and Good Samaritan hospitals, complained that they are not included in the levy and will not receive any of the revenue, even though those hospitals provide about 17 percent of the county's indigent care.

        Commissioners were not swayed by the argument.

        “Health care is in a crisis,” Commissioner Tom Neyer said. “At least we have some resources to pass around. But as we pass it around, where will it stop? I've heard so many proposals from organizations legitimately providing public health care. But University Hospital provides the majority of (adult) indigent care, and I have reason to expect that for the next 4 1/2 years they will continue that.”

        Social studies teacher Donna Lauver said the meeting was a great opportunity for her kids.

        “We've been talking about how being a citizen means more than just voting,” Ms. Lauver said. “So the biggest thing I hope they got out of it is an interest in what county government is about, and I hope they ask how they can get move involved.”

        Senior Nadalie Wirth, 17, said she learned a lot from watching the meeting.

        “I never knew it was open to the public and anyone could just go up there and speak,” Ms. Wirth said.


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