Manatee Memorial CEO proposes new surtax election to pay for indigent health care

Posted by MARC R. MASFERRER on April 22, 2014 

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Ambulances gather at the emergency room area of Manatee Memorial Hospital. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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By SARA KENNEDY skennedy@bradenton.com

MANATEE -- The chief executive officer of Manatee Healthcare System has proposed another effort to pass a surtax to pay for health care for the poor in Manatee County, county commissioners said Tuesday.

Commissioner Michael Gallen said he had met with Kevin DiLallo, who proposed placing the proposal on the November election ballot.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal for a half-cent surtax on the sales tax rate to pay for health care for the poor in an election last June.

Gallen said that while he supported the idea of a surtax to finance indigent care, he would be unable to support an actual ballot proposal at this time without a formal plan to spend the money the surtax would raise. He said no such plan is in place.

“I feel we have to have a holistic plan in place or preventative care not focused primarily on emergency room care because we need something more efficient and effective in our health care system,” Gallen said.

Commission Chair Larry Bustle acknowledged discussions on the matter have been taking place, but said after the county commission meeting Tuesday, “Nobody brought it up today.”

Once the commission starts its discussion of the budget in coming months, the numbers on health care would have to be updated, he said, adding that right now there are not enough facts.

Other commissioners said they had also met with DiLallo.

“The people have spoken,” said Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, referring to last year’s election results.

Commissioner John Chappie said he didn’t know the specifics, and it would not be appropriate to comment.

A call seeking comment to DiLallo’s office was not immediately returned Tuesday.

However, in an email message written to all the commissioners, DiLallo thanked them for their time in discussing the matter.

“I would like to thank all the commissioners for your time and attention to the indigent care conversations this week,” wrote DiLallo in an email message to commissioners sent Thursday.

“I hope I could provide you with information that was understandable and informative for you to support a referendum to be placed on the ballot this November,” he wrote.

“A vote this November would be a pro-active decision to address a problem that will surface in future years,” he wrote.

Manatee Healthcare System operates Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.

After a heated campaign last year, with supporters telling voters that implementing a surtax would mean a cut in property taxes, almost 61 percent of voters rejected the proposal.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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