Governor Nathan Deal is proposing a plan that would allow lawmakers to avoid an explicit vote on the so-called bed tax.
For the last two years, hospitals have paid a certain amount of their revenue to help prop up the state Medicaid program, which provides health coverage for the poor, elderly, and disabled.
The controversial fee is set to expire in June unless lawmakers decide to renew it.
The governor’s new proposal, introduced today by his floor leaders in both the House and Senate, would effectively switch the responsibility for levying the fee from the legislature to the Department of Community Health.
State Representative Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, is still trying to figure out if that would be legal. She characterized the proposal on its face as a political maneuver.
“I guess it’s so the governor can say he didn’t raise taxes,” said Gardner. “I mean, the people understand the difference between a fee and a tax - not much.”
When originally passed in 2010, the fee led to a brutal feud among Senate Republicans. Supporters said it was essential to balance the budget and prevent deep cuts in provider reimbursement rates. Opponents slammed it as a tax on patients.
Last month, Governor Deal had called on hospitals to come together on the fee to help mitigate Republican infighting. The industry reached consensus on a fee renewal, but political observers still expect strong opposition from anti-tax conservatives.