Indigent care program faces $1.5 million cut as hospital district faces tighter budgets

More than half a million in funding for indigent care programs could be cut under a plan requested by hospital leaders in response to budget cutbacks in the fallout of the Huntsville Memorial Hospital acquisition. 

The cuts would impact health care used by over 300 impoverished Walker County citizens, some of which will soon have to find other avenues for care. Under the proposed plan, Walker County’s indigent care program would drop eligibility for basic health services to 50% of the federal poverty level.

The county currently has a robust plan, which provides care for 100% of the poverty level. State law requires the county to offer health care for those at 21% of the federal poverty line.

“Our current plan is a very rich program and allows for care outside of Walker County,” hospital district chairman Anne Karr Woodard said. “The new plan would not only drop the percentage on the poverty level, but also limit care within Walker County.

The hospital district’s proposed budget cut is projected to save the hospital and the district an estimated $577,000 and would push nearly half of the county’s indigents off of the program.

“One thing that was very important to us is that the people who would no longer be in the program still be able to get the care they need,” Woodard added. “We have been assured that programs like charity care and other programs can still help them.”

Counties across Texas offer a wide array of indigent care cutoffs, with counties such as Polk and Cooke at 21%, while Nacogdoches County is at 60% and Montgomery County is at 133%.

As required by state law, the hospital district will conduct a public hearing before taking action on the indigent care cut, which is expected to take place Aug. 26.

The changes are expected to take effect Nov. 1.