Health Care Board Recommends Half Cent Sales Tax

The half cent sales tax was a recommendation that received overwhelming support by the Leon County Health Care Advisory Board, members approved in a 10-2 vote.

However, the tax has a few more barriers to get by including the Leon County Commission and the voters.

It's estimated there are between 18,000 and 23,000 people without medical insurance in Leon County. Janice Barnes is among them.

"I'm an asthma patient and it's hard for me to get my medicines, me being a single mom, I don't have the extra money to pay for my medicines,” Barnes explains.

For the uninsured in Leon County, the first line of care before the emergency room, the Bond Community Health Center and Neighborhood Health Services.

But, both are struggling with high patient loads and not enough funding.

"I feel that what we're needing now is more funding to make sure we can continue our services,” says Inzlea Smith-McGlockton, Executive Director of Neighborhood Health Services.

The Primary Health Care Advisory Board is taking what's been called "historic steps" to address the medical needs of the community and it's going along with the recommendations of a county hired consultant, which includes a half cent sales tax to fund a comprehensive health care plan. The board is asking the county commission to consider the option and let voters decide.

“This will make something sustainable over a long period of time as opposed to a small tax here or a bucket of money there,” says Dr. Temple Robinson, of Bond Community Health Center.

If the county approves, the half cent sales tax option will go before the voters in a referendum this fall. Barnes says that can't happen soon enough.

"They need help, we need help,” Barnes adds.

County commissioners will decide later this month on whether to take the option to a fall referendum.

It's estimated the half cent sales tax will bring in about $18 million a year for health care.

According to the Health Care Advisory Board, Indigent Health Care is currently funded in Leon County through a .12 millage rate on property taxes which brings in about $1.2 million a year.

That's one of the issues brought up Wednesday night. A half cent sales tax doesn't single out a particular group to pay, it's everyone, including those not even living in the county.