The Suburbs Are Booming, But Their Uninsured Are a Growing Burden on Dallas County Taxpayers

It irks Dr. Fred Cerise, the CEO of Parkland Memorial Hospital, to hear suburban counties north of Dallas bragging about their low property taxes. That's because, he says, these counties increasingly benefit from their poor residents using Parkland. And when neither the patients, nor their home counties pay, Dallas County taxpayers have no choice but to. These unfunded patients cost $27.4 million last year, a 72 percent rise since 2012. "It is a fairness issue," Cerise said. "You can crow about having low taxes, but all of your uninsured people can come down to Dallas to get their care." To support the safety-net hospital, Dallas County property owners pay a separate tax -- 27.9 cents per $100 valuation -- on top of taxes for schools, cities and the county. Meanwhile, residents of Collin, Denton, Ellis and Kaufman counties don't pay a hospital tax. Yet hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents from those counties aren't poor enough to qualify for their counties' small indigent health care programs. So many patients, Cerise said, go years without seeing a doctor until their health problems are dire, and then, their best -- or only -- option is to come to Parkland. Patients from outside Dallas County visited Parkland 20,740 times in 2016. Most showed up at the emergency room and then continued receiving care for an ongoing issue -- such as cancer -- at Parkland because no hospital in their home county would take them, Cerise said. Parkland does turn away uninsured out-of-county patients whose medical issues aren't emergencies. Of the out-of-county patients, Collin County residents visit most often. The hospital lost $6 million last year alone on Collin County patients, who visited nearly 6,000 times, according to Parkland data.   Continue reading...

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