JeffCo Commissioners Say Indigent Care Not as Expensive as Previously Thought, but Needs to be Watched

Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington

July 25, 2017 – Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington acknowledged feeling better about the financial state of indigent care in Jefferson County during Tuesday’s commission committee meeting.

When last the commission met, Carrington was given the impression that the county’s cost for inpatient indigent care at UAB Hospital was up to $25 million, well over the commission’s cap of $16 million to $17 million.

County Manager Tony Petelos said the county actually has spent just less than $12 million for inpatient indigent care so far this year, with $8.2 million at UAB, $968,000 at UAB West, $1.5 million at St. Vincent’s and $891,000 at Baptist Health.

“I feel better than I did two weeks ago,” Carrington said. “My initial concern was it appeared as if the inpatient portion of the indigent care fund was out of control. I received some new data and it appears the inpatient data is in control.”

Carrington said other services – including funds paid to the Eye Foundation – might need to be monitored more closely. Petelos said Jefferson County has spent a little less than $1 million at the foundation, a lot more than he thought it would.

We have to look at how many services we can offer for the money we have or we have to change who qualifies for services paid for by the indigent care fund, he said.

“The Affordable Care Act was capped at 133 percent of the poverty level,” Carrington said. “Our indigent care fund goes up to 200 percent. I’ve asked the question: If we would lower to the 133 percent, could we service more people?”

Carrington also commented on a health-related consulting contract proposed for this week’s commission meeting consent agenda. That contract would have Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips, LLP, provide consulting and advisory services in evaluating organizational options to improve the sustainability of Cooper Green.

“There’s no need for a consultant to come in and we have to teach them about the medical industry,” he said. “We needed someone who understood the medical industry to come teach us how to be more effective.”

Cooper Green CEO Roger McCullough Carrington assured Carrington the consultants are familiar with the medical industry.

Carrington said it appears the county can collect more money from Medicare and Medicaid by modifying its computer systems. “It could be as much as $2 million or $3 million a year,” he said, “which allows us to expand services.”

On other matters:

Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens

* Commission President Jimmie Stephens pointed out seven resolutions that call for the county to do roadwork that was left undone by developers who went bankrupt as a result of the 2008 recession.

“The country commission now is in a position where they have assessed the roads and they’re beginning to work to repair those roads,” he said. “The first came up today and that was the Heritage Park subdivision (in McCalla), which was graded to be the worst in the county.

“It’s going to be a 3- to 5-year project, but we’re going to repair and replace (roads in) all of these subdivisions,” Stephens said, “because it’s the right thing to do.”

* Commissioner Joe Knight mentioned an agreement with Trussville concerning Vann Road, which is partly in that city and partly in unincorporated Jefferson County.

“It’s in bad shape,” Knight said. The county will share the cost with Trussville of repairing the entire road. Trussville will maintain the road after that, he said.  Jefferson County is working on similar agreements with Trussville concerning Service Road and Valley Road, Knight said.

* Commissioners agreed to a resolution urging Congress to pass funding for museum and library services. Pat Ryan, director of cooperative services for the Jefferson County Library Cooperative, said Jefferson County got $128,000 from that fund last year and the state of Alabama overall got $600,000.

This week’s regular commission meeting will be Wednesday in Bessemer.

Related: Jeffco Commissioners Face Indigent Healthcare Sticker Shock – Again