Budget for Polk County’s Indigent Healthcare Fund unveiled – News – News Chief


Polk County’s proposal on how to divvy up the money from November’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax cent for indigent health care was unveiled to the Citizens Oversight Committee.

BARTOW — Polk County’s proposal on how to divvy up the money from November’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax cent for indigent health care was unveiled to the Citizens Oversight Committee.

The sales tax is expected to bring in about 4.5 percent more in the 2017-18 budget year than it raised this year, according to a report from Deputy County Manager Lea Ann Thomas, who made Friday’s presentation to the citizens’ group appointed by the County Commission to oversee the fund.

The proposed 2017-18 budget for the Indigent Healthcare Fund is $85.86 million, a jump of about $7.5 million from this year’s adopted budget of $78.34 million.

Revenue includes $41.9 million coming in from the half-cent sales tax; a little more than $700,000 from investments, recovery of medical claims and prescription claims and rebates; and more than $42 million brought over from this year’s reserves.

The reserves are much larger than typical because county officials were accumulating funds to cushion the blow if voters had not extended the sales tax, which was first enacted in 2004. November’s voter-approval extended the tax for 25 years.

“The biggest challenge we have coming up is deciding how we will use the reserve,” Dr. Tom McMicken, chairman of the Citizens Oversight Committee, said following the meeting.

“During our recent retreat we discussed a problem we have in mental health services is providing services to people after they leave jail, which, let’s face it, is the largest mental health facility in the county,” he said. “People who need them can get psychotropic drugs while they are in jail, but we do not know about the services after they are released. We need to find a way to track this.

“Personally, I think we will be looking at getting more dollars toward this,” McMicken said.

Overall, the proposed budget includes about $4.2 million for mental health and substance abuse services, including both direct-care services and state-mandated services.

A little more than 16 percent of the proposed budget, or $13.97 million, pays for the county’s share of programs mandated by the state.

The mandates include:

• Medicaid for poor children, elderly and disabled residents.

• Bills for indigent Polk residents when they receive medical care outside of the county.

• Some alcohol, drug abuse and mental health services.

• Contributions toward specific services offered through the Florida Department of Health in Polk.

Mandated fees are expected to add up to $427,387 more than this year’s fees.

Most of the rest of the money goes toward the Polk Healthcare Plan, which is operated by the county to provide basic care for the uninsured, working poor, at a cost of $14.94 million, and for direct care programs operated by some 200 community partners which use county funding to supplement their services in providing deeply discounted services to the poor.

The budget for direct-care services includes:

• $4.8 million for primary care, an increase of $476,544.

• $1.48 million for dental services, an increase of $86,644.

• $1.35 million for mental health services, an increase of $236,611; plus another $800,000 for residential services, the same as the current year.

• $496,933 for outreach and prevention, an increase of $259,933.

• $348,922 for specialty areas, an increase of $43,322.

The indigent healthcare fund budget is part of Polk County’s overall budget and requires final approval by the County Commission.

Marilyn Meyer can be reached at marilyn.meyer@theledger.com or 863-802-7558. Follow her on Twitter @marilyn_ledger.

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Budget for Polk County’s Indigent Healthcare Fund unveiled – News – News Chief

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