Collin County Defines Who's Poor Enough For Care

How would you like a job paying $22,600 dollars a year? It's not a lot for one person, but for a family of four it's a struggle just thinking how to survive on it in this economy. 

In Collin County, though, $22,600 means you're rich -- too wealthy for your family to receive taxpayer-funded health care services at any of the county's non-profit health care clinics.

Collin County's Commissioners, who double as the county's health care foundation board of trustees, voted 3-2 in favor of defining indigent patients as those at 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

Earn $22,050 dollars in that same family of four and you qualify for the tax subsidized health care services offered by the clinics -- a difference of only $550 dollars in annual income.

Trustees who supported the restrictions on funding say it's all about fiscal responsibility and watching out for taxpayers. They also restrict any tax dollars from being used to pay for the health care of undocumented or illegal immigrants.

Critics claim, before the vote, clinics were free to use the grants to treat "the most vulnerable, low income" patients at their discretion. Many of Collin County's non-profit health care clinics cater to children and elderly but lately they've seen a rise in patients due to the economy.

Several supporters of the county's non-profit clinics, including health care professionals, clergy and patients, all told trustees stories of need. In the end, cost prevailed over need as some trustees say to continue undefined funding of indigent health care would cost more money than the trust has at its disposal annually without raising taxes.

Leaders of non-profit clinics vowed to continue to push for more funding and say the trustees decision only insures that more poor and working poor people will have less access to health care.

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