October 2-- Which would you rather do? Send your state income tax payment this year to Atlanta or send it to help the bottom line at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia?
Meadows is one of 49 rural hospitals which can benefit from the tax credit program created by the Georgia legislature, according to Jim Creamer, a certified public accountant who consults with hospitals.
"I appreciate what they've done because they recognize the trends in healthcare which are going downward. It gives the state taxpayer, who's going to have to pay their taxes anyway, an opportunity to make that same payment to a needy hospital. It's a benefit to the taxpayer and the hospital," he said.
When it comes to finances, many of Georgia's rural hospitals are on the medical equivalent of "intensive care" because "The whole challenge about healthcare is that there is so much of an estimate involved in what the hospital receives from patients. For Meadows and all hospitals, about 65% of gross revenue comes from government and the government is reluctant to release what they are going to pay far enough in advance for hospitals to plan.
"All hospitals are struggling. What they get from the government is declining. What they get from self-pay patients is declining. There is less and less an opportunity to generate a profit. Even though Meadows and other authority-based hospitals are classified as not for profit, you can't continue day to day without making some kind of a profit," Creamer says.
Creamer says because the program is based on tax credits, there are situations where you will actually get credit for more than the amount you contribute.
"The first thing I would do is talk to my accountant and get more information. That taxpayer is going to have to pay their Georgia state taxes. They can either pay the Department of Revenue or they can pay it to Meadows Regional and get more of a benefit and be eliminated from having to pay their taxes. Either way, they are going to pay the same amount of money, they just get more of a benefit by participating in this program," he said.