There has been much discussion of the proposed changes in the distribution of Kansas City’s health levy funds.
In 2013, 72 percent of voters approved the extension of a portion of the health levy. This fund generates about $50 million per year for the support of the safety net system. These organizations include Truman Medical Centers, Samuel Rogers Health Clinic, Swope Health Centers, Kansas City CARE Clinic, Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Northland Health Care Access. The city-run ambulance service is also included in this fund.
The Health Care Foundation’s very first grant was to support the health levy in 2005. We again supported the effort in 2013. There is no doubt that health care takes many partners, and Kansas City has the proud distinction of supporting care for the vulnerable through funding for more than 100 years.
The good news is that the revenues coming in from the levy itself are on target.
The bad news is that the fire department’s ambulance service is not meeting its billing targets; a deficit reportedly comprised of personnel overtime costs and low payment collection for its services. City officials are facing pressure to reallocate millions of dollars to support those costs.
Unfortunately, covering that gap means those millions of dollars will be diverted from the clinics and hospitals over the next 60 days, and perhaps in next year’s budget as well. This would be a potentially devastating cut for providers already operating on tight budgets.
There is some hope that the next few months of ambulance revenues will recover, as the fire department looks at modifying current billing and collecting methods. We hope they will successfully work through these budget woes without pulling additional funds from the health levy.
Residents need to be able to depend on the quality emergency services of the city and on the preventive care that keeps them well. But the fact remains, the city must use the dollars as the public intended when they voted to support the safety net. We encourage city officials to look for every possible solution to ensure the stability and strength of those dedicated to the health and well-being of our community.