The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

February 5, 2013

More questions than answers with health act

Special to the Herald-Banner

I’ll be the first to admit that during my town hall on Jan. 26 I should have had my notes in front of me to make sure I got the amount of taxes paid to the county hospital district to the penny. I stated during the town hall that it was about $12 million, which was wrong, and I had made this presentation twice with the correct information; again, I should have been precise on issues as controversial as this one, knowing how many of the public may feel.

However, keep in mind that the paper didn’t print every word I said during the event. I also cut the presentation short. I was shocked by the turnout which was due to opposition toward the toll road.

You should know all media outlets edit for space or time; our paper is no different. 

While you may disagree with me, or even think I have no clue what I am talking about, you must stop for a moment and consider the real possibilities of my argument. Had the points I laid out on Obamacare been fully presented and printed, you may or may not had an adjustment in your point of view as I did when I started reading the law.

If the law works as well as our president has told us, will we even need indigent health care? The law, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, says we all have to carry health insurance, and if you cannot afford it the government says it will provide a way to help defer cost.

Should we come out on the good end of this, do we need to provide $9.4 million in tax money to our hospital for ambulance service and indigent care? I admit I don’t know for sure, but I have my opinion as well.  I will always respect your view even if I disagree, and I would hope and expect that you would do the same for me.

Let me think outside the box; I may just find something.

As to Mr. Carter’s statement of the level increases that I predict, I make the case with Medicare. With the full implementation of Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act) starting January 2014, we will see a tax increase in order to offset what the state and feds don’t pay.

Why? As we have seen for the last few years on the news, many doctors plan on retiring in the near future because as many of them have stated, “How can I expect to be able to make a living and run my practice when the government keeps cutting the amount they pay me for the services that my practice provides?”

A large number of doctors across this great nation of ours have stopped taking Medicare and Medicaid all together, due to low reimbursements.

Where do you think the additional monies will come from in the future?  As you have probably figured out by now, you the taxpayer.  Many know and have known for some time like myself that Baylor is in a partnership with our hospital, but as some of us remember Baylor and other hospital corporations are looking at acquiring additional hospitals.

Much of this info is easy to confirm and, while I never said that Baylor had met with our hospital board or administration, that does not discount the several news stories and conversations I have had over the last several years bears out what I am saying.

Like many of you, I have friends outside of Hunt County and some in the medical field both as doctors and administration.

While I understand that the county is required to provide indigent care, and while the hospital does a great job for the citizens of Hunt County, we should look at the amounts of money spent and see if we are getting the best bang for our tax dollars.

Would it be cheaper to have the county pay outright for the services of indigent care and ambulance services? In the near term maybe or maybe not, but, in the future, the possibility of it being cheaper rises.

While I have great respect for Mr. Carter and for the men and women of the hospital, could we be in for a kick in the teeth over this? No one really knows for sure, but as past experience shows, when dealing with the government, especially the federal government, the odds are we will.

The consequences will only get worse as an out-of-control federal government continues at breakneck speed towards bankruptcy. If you think that this could not happen, I would suggest that you are in a minority of people in the real world. 

I have stated many times in the past and I will say it again, just because I want to remind you of what I said when I ran for this office; I will always question everything, because the excuse that “this is the way we have always done it” is no longer an adequate answer. Conversations need to be started to resolve issues now, so we may try to prepare for the future before these issues reach a point we can no longer resolve them in a way that doesn’t hurt our future as a county.

I have received both praise and criticism over my views on this subject from some of the citizens of Hunt County, and I welcome both. I was elected by the people and I will continue to do my absolute best to serve them well. Please keep in mind I am going to make a few mistakes along the way. When this happens and I become aware I will get it corrected quickly. Like you, I am just a human being.

Now I hope my predictions will be wrong. Perhaps one day you can even call me the commissioner that cried wolf, and everything will be just fine. However, what if I am right? What will we do then? Will it be too late to change direction? I hope not, but since history is the only guide I have to work with the real possibility is it will.

So, in closing, I will say while I may not be completely right, the people who wrote the law and pushed it through Congress, such as Nancy Pelosi, gave us the infamous quote “We have to pass the bill to know what is in it”. 

Consider our president’s own words: “We will have (to) work out any issues not answered clearly by the bill after it becomes law.”

How can  anyone say my point of view or Mr. Carter’s is the right view? No one can. Having read the bill, I have as many questions as answers.

All I had hoped by my stance on the issue was to get taxpayers to think about it and see if you, the citizenry, wanted to get some of our other issues rectified if it is possible to reduce or eliminate the hospital tax. I was thinking outside the box.

The money could be used for purposes such as road improvement, or paying off other debts the county has on the books. The fact that I have made you and many others in the county think about this, and that responses have been quick, both pro and con, tells me I did manage that.

My next town hall will be Feb. 23 at the Cash Fire Department. I will look forward to your attendance as well as your comments.

Atkins is Hunt County Commissioner for Precinct 2