It’s been hard for rural hospitals such as Liberty Regional Medical Center to make ends meet, so it comes as no surprise they’re celebrating a recent change to a tax credit for donors to hospitals.
The bill, House Bill 217, was created in 2016. Then it allowed individuals and businesses to earn a tax credit worth 70 percent of their donation to a rural hospital. Last year lawmakers increased the tax credit to 90 percent.
But with rural hospitals across the state still facing financial crisis, lawmakers increased the tax credit to 100 percent. It is retroactively effective Jan. 1.
The tax credit is designed to get more dollars to rural hospitals so they can pay off debt related to uncompensated care, improve their facilities and in many cases remain open.
According to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, 80 rural hospitals have closed nationwide since 2010. Georgia is third in the nation in closures with six. According to the Georgia Department of Community Health, LRMC is ranked No. 20 out of 58 hospitals on the list based on financial need. Wayne County Memorial Hospital is ranked 21.
In order to receive the tax credit, taxpayers must pre-register online at: georgiaheart.org
Once approved, contributions may be designated to qualified rural hospitals that have met the criteria as set forth in the law. LRMC is a qualified hospital.
“If you’re a couple and owe the state up to $10,000 in taxes … instead of paying it to the state you can donate that to the hospital at 100 percent tax credit,” Liberty County Hospital Authority Chairman James Rogers said, giving an example to a group of people at last week’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast.
“You will no longer owe the state,” Rogers continued. “Also if you itemize on your federal taxes you might be able to make money on this.”
Rogers thanked guest speaker state Rep. Al-Williams, D-Midway, for supporting the bill.
Single tax filers can contribute up to $5,000. Businesses may contribute as well.
“Every rural hospital is in financial crisis right now,” LRMC Marketing Director Rene Harwell said. “And people don’t realize just how large the indigent community is here.”
LRMC Executive Director Mike Hester said hospital administrators and the board conducted a community needs assessment. Based on their research the funds generated through the rural hospital tax credit and the LRMC Foundation’s Capital Campaign drive will be used to build a hospital-based oncology center.
“Low Country Cancer Care has been partnering with us for years,” Hester said. “Dr. George Negrea has been coming to Hinesville to provide limited services, but right now families still have to travel out of town for chemotherapy.”
Hester said the new oncology facility will have six treatment rooms for onsite chemotherapy infusion and support services. He added the oncology center will expand services to folks living in Liberty and Long counties and nearby communities who currently have to drive to Savannah or further for treatment.
Harwell said the rural hospital tax credit may be used for the 2018 through 2021 tax years.
For more information or to register for the rural hospital tax credit visit: georgiaheart.org.