Property owners may be surprised when they look at the estimated tax bills arriving in their mailboxes: Despite the rollout of the federal Affordable Care Act, they're still obligated to pay taxes to a Broward hospital district.
"Obamacare is supposed to cover everybody, and that being the case, then why should I have to also pay the hospital district?" asked Carole B. Melendez.
Melendez, 68, wonders why the notice of proposed property taxes, called a TRIM notice, shows she and her husband are likely to pay $237.95 in hospital district taxes for their Tamarac home.
"It's a legitimate question," said Frank Nask, president and chief executive of Broward Health.
Every Broward property owner pays taxes to support one of the county's two hospital districts. Obamacare has its own system of taxes to help reduce the ranks of the nation's uninsured.
The county hospital district taxes will continue for the foreseeable future, said Nask and Matthew Muhart, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Memorial Healthcare System.
The main reason is Obamacare doesn't cover everyone. Even after it's fully in place, there still will be plenty of people who won't be insured.
Many Floridians people won't get help from the Affordable Care Act because Republicans who control the state Legislature rejected one of Obamacare's central components, an expansion of the joint federal-state Medicaid health program for the poor.
No Medicaid expansion means there will be people who don't qualify for that program but are too poor to afford insurance. When they need service, county property taxpayers help cover the cost.
"We don't see the level of uninsured patients decreasing until that [Medicaid] expansion occurs," Muhart said.
Eventually, Nask said, the overhaul of the health care system is likely to reduce the care that's covered by property taxes. Over time, he expects local hospital district taxes will go down.
If Florida decides to expand Medicaid program — something both Broward Health and Memorial Healthcare would like to see happen, executives said — then taxes might go down sooner rather than later.
The North Broward Hospital District operates the Broward Health brand. It operates public hospitals in the northern two-thirds of the county, including Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Property taxes account for $149.2 million of the district's $1.3 billion budget.
The South Broward Hospital District, which uses the Memorial brand, serves the southern third of the county. Its flagship is Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. Property taxes contribute about $23.4 million of the district's $1.5 billion budget.
Both districts operate dozens of other health facilities. Each has a board of commissioners appointed by the governor.
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Public hearings on hospital district taxes and spending
North Broward (Broward Health)
Proposed tax rate: $1.86 for every $1,000 of property value. Works out to $279 for the owner of a home worth $200,000 with a homestead exemption.
First hearing: 5:30 p.m., Sept. 18. Broward Health Medical Center, 1600 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
Second hearing: 5:30 p.m., Sept. 25. Broward Health North, 201 E. Sample Rd., Deerfield Beach.
South Broward (Memorial Healthcare)
Proposed tax rate: 50 cents for every $1,000 of property value. Works out to $75 for the owner of a home worth $200,000 who has a homestead exemption.
First hearing: 5:30 p.m., Sept. 11. Memorial Regional Hospital, Perry Auditorium, 3501 Johnson Street, Hollywood.
Second hearing: 5:30 p.m., Sept. 25. Memorial Regional Hospital, Perry Auditorium, 3501 Johnson Street, Hollywood.