It's estimated there are as many as 31,000 Leon County residents without health insurance. The county already raises about $1.4 million per year through property taxes to provide healthcare to about 8,000 residents, but county administrators say it's not meeting all the needs.
The county says it has a possible solution in a proposed comprehensive health care plan. It's a so-called last resort that would benefit about 9,000 uninsured residents, pending voter approval.
Under the proposed plan, in order to qualify a Leon County resident's total household income must fall below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (for a family of four that's $40,000. For one person, it's $19,600), be between the ages of 18 and 64, not qualify for any other state or federal health care program, and be uninsured for at least one year.
Tallahassee Equality Action Ministries, or TEAM, has been working to push the tax and plan.
Rabbi Jack Romberg, co-chair of TEAM, said, "Federal government has abdicated its responsibility to take care of this. If we're not going to do it locally, then who is going to do it? We have a moral responsibility to take care of our neighbors."
Implementing the plan is going to come with costs. If voters approve, Leon County will have one of the highest sales taxes in the state at eight percent, a tax increase that is expected to generate between $18 to $20 million each year, costing each Leon County resident up to $59 annually.
The Greater Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce's board says it's not opposed to providing health care to the uninsured, but did not support the plan and tax, questioning whether it's the right solution.
Randy Hanna, Chairman of the Chamber, said, "We believe this plan is too early. We believe the safeguards are not in place, and frankly, we're concerned about taking 20 million out of the economy every year without ensuring the money will be spent."
Leon County's administration admits the county has the lowest number of uninsured in the state, but says that number is growing and it's hoping to break the cycle with the proposed plan. Whether that plan and tax is the way to do it is in the hands of Leon County voters.