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Plan Could Cut County's Health Care Bill

The area's biggest hospital group is offering to give up its share of money for people without enough health care coverage.


The money would come in the form of savings from millions that Mecklenburg County usually pays for indigent care at hospitals like Carolinas Medical Center.


Carolinas Healthcare System said it's now willing to pick up a big part of that tab.


This year, Mecklenburg County is paying CHS $17 million toward the $164 million it spends on needy patients.


But now the hospital system is offering to cut the county's share by picking up the tab for all inpatient indigent care, saving the county $10 million.


In another tough budget year, extra millions could be a boon for the county.


County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts said there will be demands for spending that money on parks, libraries and schools.


“Could we use $10 million in any or all of those areas? Absolutely,” she said.


Vice Chair Jim Pendergraph said he'd use any savings to offset any possible increase in taxes.


But Commissioner Harold Cogdell said he thinks it's too early to start spending savings the county doesn't yet have.


“I would have to say it's unlikely that we're going to realize that $10 million in this upcoming budget cycle,” Cogdell said. “And it's not something we're going to be able to budget around.”


In fact, late Wednesday, Channel 9 got a copy of a memo sent to commissioners, saying County Manager Harry Jones wants to look at renegotiating all of the county's contracts with Carolinas Healthcare -- about $60 million worth, including mental health care.


That could be controversial, and the $10 million offer now on the table may not be a done deal.


Eyewitness News asked Carolinas Healthcare System how that would impact its care for the uninsured or underinsured patients, but hasn’t heard back yet.


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