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Arizona hospitals get creative to make up for uncompensated care

Less than a month after Phoenix approved a plan to tax its hospitals, another Arizona city is looking to do the same thing. From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports.

MARK BRODIE: Phoenix officials say their new ordinance will bring in $200 million federal matching dollars, to help pay hospitals for treating patients without insurance. Now, Casa Grande Regional Medical Center is looking into a similar arrangement with that city. Hospital President and CEO Rona Curphy says there aren’t lot of options for hospitals to make up that lost money.

RONA CURPHY: It’s the easiest…it’s not easy, but it’s the quickest thing that we can do for right this moment. And, it doesn’t last.

BRODIE: Provider assessments would likely only run through the end of the year – that’s because many provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act take effect on New Years’ Day, 2014. Pete Wertheim of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association says the group supports creative efforts to solve problems, but that there needs to be a statewide solution.

PETE WERTHEIM: Provider assessments aren’t easy. We found that out a few years ago. They’re controversial, they’re difficult, they’re not something that can be easily achieved.

BRODIE: Two years ago, the state legislature allowed cities and towns to set up these kinds of arrangements. Wertheim says there are other cities and hospitals that have been discussing them. But, Goldwater Institute Chief Economist Byron Schlomach says they cause problems in health care.

BYRON SCHLOMACH: It’s just a money grab. And ultimately, we’re all paying for that.

BRODIE: Provider assessments also require approval from the federal government before they can take effect.