I'll be putting up a couple of video clips and some pics as the day wears on, but for right now here's an MP3 (right click and download to your drive if you have a slow connection). . Also, here's a link to photos we took.Frankly, the Town Hall meeting was NOT well-attended. I didn't do a count of how many people actually showed up, but I"m guessing it was from 30-40 people. If you're one of them that missed this, the purpose of this meeting was about giving YOU new taxes based on your property valuation. I would have thought it would have been PACKED. That said, I think there's supposed to be another one of these meetings in February. And the VOTE for the hospital district is on February 14, so it's not much time.
I didn't understand anything about the hospital district when I entered the room. I was under a vague impression that they needed it because the hospital was losing money and they wanted county taxes. Basically, I still am, but at least the explanation seems a lot clearer and more nuanced.
Before I put in my impressions, there's one thing I want to call out that I would like to have clarified further. Right now, the Glen Rose Medical Center is run through a private foundation. They essentially lease land from Somervell County and Somervell County has, in its budget, 3.5 cents that they pay to the GRMC for care of the indigent. It's not a county hospital. IF the citizens of Somervell County create a hospital district, the money that the county allocates would not have to be allocated from county taxes but would be included in the itemized bill that the hospital district gives you.. plus another 3.5 cents (based on a probability here that I will explain in a bit). IF the county decided NOT to take it off the budget or use that money for something else, then we'd be charged 3.5 cents from the county and 7 cents from the hospital district. Anyway, my point here is that, at least as far as the county is concerned, we are not supporting the hospital, but supporting the poor, indigent or otherwise deserving in the county. I think the state of health care in this country is atrocious and I'm all for helping those less fortunate, and from that standpoint, does it really matter if they are supported via the county or via a board-run hospital district?
Here's the question. Gary Marks, again, said that GRMC is run by a private foundation but he ALSO said that if the hospital district is created, then it might be that the hospital district would be the entity that then is the entry into the private foundation. Saying it another way. Right now, if I want to know how the hospital is being run, how much money the people are being paid, etc, it's not public information, which is fine because it's not my nickel going into running it (with one exception that I know of, again, will pick this up in a bit). But if I start being taxed to run a hospital district, I wouldn't expect that the private foundation would then be running the hospital but an elected board which would be subject to elections, open records, etc. And yet, Marks indicated that he would like to continue to have the board AND the private foundation, and it seemed to me the purpose is to keep information private so as not to tip off competitors. It isn't that I don't feel sympathetic to those claims. I do. But if my money would be used to fund the hospital, then I think a private entity that can keep information locked away from the public has no place. And it's not clear to me at what point this would be part of the discussion. Could, for example, the hospital district get created without the knowledge that the intent was to keep the private foundation, and then the hospital board would vote to do that? Is that legal? Or, better, is that ethical?
One other bit I wondered about and had to ask several times to get a yes. GRMC currently, as a private foundation, has a couple of clinics that are in other counties (Bosque and Hood). The hospital district would be, from a geographical and taxing standpoint, limited ot the county line BUT the taxpayer money to support it could go to clinics outside the county. Now, I think having the clinics makes sense, in that a person going to the doctor at a clinic in Bosque County could be directed to the GRMC for further medical procedures; thus, they potentially bring in business. I just think it needs to be spelled out clearly that's also where the money would go.
Back to the money paid. Apparently Luminant and perhaps other citizens were surprised, to say the least, to see that the original petition for the hospital district had the legal cap on how much the district could be taxed-it was 75cents per $1000 of property. So the *cap* on how much possibly our county could be taxed (unless there's another election in which people of this county said, yes, yes, tax me more) would be 10 cents in this election coming up. Does this mean that the hospital district *would* tax everybody 10 cents? No, the suggested rate that they would *probably* tax people is 7 to 7.5 cents.
And one more thing. We've been paying, through our federal taxes for expansion for the GRMC, via allotments (or shall we say earmarks) that Chet Edwards has gotten through appropriations. He's apparently looking to get additional monies for GRMC right now. Again, GRMC is a private foundation but having a hospital here benefits the public. I want to say more about the whole presentation, because it's extremely interesting to get a glimpse into the cut throat competitive world of medical services. I felt like I was watching sharks encircling the county but that will be on an upcoming post later today. For right now, I'd like to have the answer to whether continuing a private foundation to run the medical center would be something people would be voting on, yes, or no, on February 14 or if it's something that could be decided on, nonetheless, once passed. Because, frankly, I don't want my tax money going to any entity that is not 100 percent accountable to the public,, rather than, from what I could see, would be a public shell protecting information in a private entity. You know? Adding a layer that obfuscates info from the public-again, I understand why GRMC would want to do that-if the information is public, and you know, for example, what nurses salaries are, then other medical companies could swoop in with better offers to lure away the best. And IF GRMC was to remain a private foundation, I could entirely agree. But not if my taxes support it.