Samuel Rodgers, Children’s Mercy Get Funding Reprieve

Mar 23, 2016

A Kansas City Council committee has added some funding for indigent health care services in a revised 2016-17 budget to be considered Thursday by the full council – much to the relief of Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center.

The Finance and Governance Committee on Wednesday recommended approval of the revised budget, which allocates about $300,000 in reserves from the health levy fund to Samuel Rodgers and Children’s Mercy Hospital. Two thirds of the bump would go to Samuel Rodgers.

The additional funding for Samuel Rodgers brings its proposed allocation during the city’s upcoming fiscal year, which begins in May, to about $1.6 million. That is $100,000 below its allocation for this year, but considerably more than a proposed cut of three times that amount before Wednesday’s action.

“One hundred is a lot better than being in the hole 300,” said Samuel Rodgers CEO Hilda Fuentes. “We will find a way.”

Some changes in the Missouri Medicaid program, Fuentes said, should generate additional reimbursements for the safety net clinic.

The additional money for Children’s Mercy would also help remove the sting from an even steeper reduction it was facing in the unrevised budget. Even so, the proposed allocation of approximately $650,000 is nearly 20 percent below its allocation this fiscal year.

A spokesman for Children’s Mercy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The city’s health levy is a property tax that is projected to bring in about $55.7 million this coming fiscal year to fund a variety of services. A little bit more than half goes to providers of indigent care.

Wednesday’s committee action is the latest step in a months-long process undertaken by the city’s health commission, an advisory board, and the Kansas City Health Department to establish a better way to distribute health levy dollars to hospitals and clinics.

The idea is to weight the distributions based on the number of patients served at each location.

Fuentes favors the change, but she lobbied the mayor and other officials for a temporary reprieve so the center could prepare for potentially smaller health levy allocations in the future.

Health Commission Co-Chair Lora Lacey-Haun said she understood council members’ desire to help safety net providers. But at the same time, she said, the commission is composed largely of volunteers who spent a lot of time devising the new funding formula that included the lesser amounts proposed for Samuel Rodgers and Children’s Mercy.

The restoration of some funds, Lacey-Haun said, “does make you really question if the work you put into something is going to be used.”

Mike Sherry is a reporter for KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo., a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.