March 26, 2013

Kansas City Seeks To Extend Health Levy

In 2005, city leaders in Kansas City sought and received a temporary property tax levy to fund health services. Eight years later, as the nine-year tax is set to expire, city leaders and health care executives want to extend it. Kansas City’s Northeast News reported that the levy helps fund:

. . . two hospitals, Truman Medical Centers and Children’s Mercy, along with six area non-profit health care providers like Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, Northland Health Care Access, KC Care Clinic, among others, to offset the cost of indigent health care. In addition, approximately $10 million of the levy goes toward the city’s ambulance service. Truman Medical Centers receives the bulk of the levy, about $26.4 million.

The tax, amounting to about $43 on each $100,000 of assessed property, is in addition to an existing health care tax that runs about $94 on each $100,000 of assessed property. However, The Kansas City Star reports that the tax may not be necessary because of the Affordable Care Act. The Star reported earlier this year that Obamacare:

. . . is supposed to improve health coverage for thousands of the city’s poor, they say. By next year, most Americans must carry health insurance or face a tax penalty, a mandate that should mean Truman and the health centers will get an infusion of cash from newly insured patients.

The city is probably correct to be skeptical that Obamacare will live up to its ambitions — it seems to be falling short on its promises — but Kansas Citians are hardly able to foot the bill for a long and growing list of taxes.

Voters’ mailboxes are being filled with mailers about why we should vote to extend the tax. Perhaps that money could be spent on an audit that identifies how to more efficiently spend existing funds. Instead of spending $10 million in tax dollars on ambulances, perhaps some of that service can be privatized, as is the case elsewhere in Missouri. Without being “smarter with the money,” does anyone doubt that in nine years the city will seek to extend this temporary tax again?

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