An open letter to Mr. Rick Bellis, cc town of Taos councilors, Taos County commissioners, Holy Cross Hospital board members:I was at the Dec. 30 Taos County Commission meeting when you …
An open letter to Mr. Rick Bellis, cc town of Taos councilors, Taos County commissioners, Holy Cross Hospital board members:
I was at the Dec. 30 Taos County Commission meeting when you stated that almost 1,000 hospitals and clinics fail each year. I wonder where you got this information, because it just isn't accurate. And honesty and facts do count.
It concerns me when a statement like that is made in public and videotaped for all to see and hear. This exaggeration is unbelievable, and makes me worried about the talk of you possibly being the liaison between the town of Taos and Holy Cross Medical Center.
Yes, health care is complicated. But being honest and truthful is extremely important if we want to find solutions.
According to Becker Hospital CFO Report at beckershospitalreview.com/finance/state-by-state-breakdown-of-113-rural-hospital-closures-082619.html, 113 rural hospitals have closed between January 2010 and August 2019. That number is for over nine and a half years, nationwide - with none of the closures in New Mexico. Significantly, most of these closures are in states that have not accepted the Medicaid expansion, which our state did. Accepting the Medicaid expansion protects rural hospitals and all hospitals.
Scare techniques should not be used. Do you know only six hospitals in New Mexico have a gross receipt tax for supporting their hospital? And that only about half of New Mexico hospitals have a tax support for their hospital? This is from Holy Cross Medical Center's own website, holycrossmedicalcenter.org/mill-levy-updates/property-and-gross-receipts-taxes-by-county. So the obligatory tax to support hospitals is not really obligatory.
Smaller rural hospitals do have more difficulties, but how many have four ski areas surrounding them, like we do? How many have housing costs as high as in Taos? How many have so many second and third homes in the county? How many have almost one-third of the property taxes due in delinquency right now?
We need to support Holy Cross but we should also look outside the box. Throwing more money at a problem doesn't necessary solve it. And it can harm our financially diverse community.
How did we get into this situation? Was it due to hiring a for-profit management corporation, Quorum, to manage our nonprofit community hospital? Was it bringing in outside personnel, leading to the massive exit of nurses to hospitals to the south because they felt they did not matter? And that has required hiring traveling personnel who are more costly. Was it the use of a poor computer system that caused late billing and loss of so much income? Why did it take so long to figure out there was a billing problem? And at the same time, the hospital moved to being a Critical Care Hospital, which is supposed to bring in more payment to the hospital.
We all know we need to keep our hospital. There are many options to help it. Charging a higher mill levy to those with second and third homes or more expensive new homes has been done elsewhere. The county commissioners cannot do that themselves, but it can go through a legislative process. Perhaps a few dollars added to each ski lift ticket would help keep our hospital functioning.
We need to be more creative with possible solutions.
County commissioners want to do something they can do themselves - a specific gross receipt tax - but few people understand GRT. GRT is not a sales tax. It's a form of taxation that typically leads to higher consumer prices - and is a heavier burden on those with the least economic security. A GRT builds throughout the production cycle because, unlike a retail sales tax assessed only on the final purchase of something, a gross receipts tax is assessed at every stage of production. Prices rise as the tax is shifted onto consumers, impacting those with lower incomes the most. (See taxfoundation.org/return-gross-receipts-taxes.)
There should be public oversight of all public dollars given to the hospital. The public deserves to see the plans for more transparency and oversight prior to being required to paying more taxes.
The hospital needs to survive but our community does too.
Del Endres, MD, has been a resident of El Prado for 31 years.
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