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County commissioners vote down tax to help ailing UMC

Reported by: Gerard Ramalho
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Updated: 5/08/2013 7:55 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- University Medical Center is the only level one trauma center in the valley. If you need that kind of critical care, it's the only place in town to get it.

It's also the only hospital run by Clark County and it has been losing millions every year.

On Tuesday County commissioners planned to discuss raising the property tax to help fund the hospital. However, that idea did not pass the commission.

News 3's Gerard Ramalho is at UMC with a report and says the idea was voted down pretty quickly.

But, all the commissioners agree UMC is a priority and how it's funded in the future is now a critical concern.

"We have a tax rate, this it what it's going to be so I would make a motion that we do not increase the property tax rate for fiscal year 2014,” said Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

The measure did not pass and UMC, which continues to struggle financially, will see no additional funds from the county in 2014.

"I would have been really pretty astounded if there would have been a vote to make any big changes today cause we haven't talked about all the implications, or if that's even the best revenue source." said UMC CEO Brian Brannman.

Clark county already provides about $100 million annually but the hospital still faces an operating deficit in 2014 of more than $85 million.

The continued losses are due in large part to providing care to uninsured or underinsured patients.

"This is a hospital that's not about making money. Indigent people don't have money so we don't have the luxury that some of the private hospitals around here have," said Commissioner Lawrence Weekly.

The situation is expected to get even worse over the next several years due to the Affordable Care Act.

Hospital administrators believe they will lose newly insured patients to other regional hospitals. Plus, additional losses will be felt as Medicaid expands.

Medicaid traditionally reimburses less than what's required to treat a patent. County leaders believe the time for triage is now.

UMC they say is on life support and survival may rest on some new source of revenue that has yet to be discovered.

So why did they vote "no" today on the property tax increase?

Part of it had to do with not having enough time to discuss other options and potential sources of revenue.

They're hoping they might be able to apply for some federal matching dollars and they're also hoping to reach out to philanthropists and deep-pocket donors who might be willing to help out.

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