This is a joint guest column by candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor concerning rural healthcare in Georgia. Brian Kemp, is Georgia’s Secretary of State and a former state Senator from Athens. He is the GOP nominee for governor. Geoff Duncan, a former state representative from Cumming, is the author of Georgia Rural Hospital Tax Credit. He is the GOP nominee for Lieutenant Governor. If any candidate would like to write a guest column, please contact AllOnGeorgia.
These are the views of the authors and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
If you are a cancer patient and live along the Georgia coast, chances are you have to drive to a large city hospital in Savannah or Jacksonville, Fla. if you need chemotherapy treatment.
But thanks to the new Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program, Liberty Regional Medical Center on Georgia’s coast has generated $850,000 in donations to launch a new oncology facility so cancer patients in Liberty and Long counties can to stay close to home for infusions.
Across the state in Seminole County, the new tax credit program has generated $625,000 to allow Donalsonville Hospital in southwest Georgia to install a nurse call system for patients, purchase a new generator and fire alarm system, and fund startup costs for offices for new physicians.
From Hiawassee in the north Georgia mountains to Homerville on the Georgia-Florida line, rural healthcare is getting a much-needed shot in the arm thanks to this new tax credit program. It enables individuals and corporations to donate to their local hospital in exchange for a credit on their Georgia income taxes.
Fifty-eight hospitals have generated an average of $600,000 to $1.4 million since the launch of the tax credit initiative. The tax credit allows rural hospitals to serve their own unique communities and patient needs — no strings attached. There are zero government mandates and no bureaucrats telling hospital administrators or doctors how to assist their rural communities.
Under the Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program, a single filer in Georgia may get 100 percent income tax credit of a donation up to $5,000. Those filing married and jointly may get a 100 percent credit up to $10,000.
If we are going to solve the rural healthcare crisis in this state, it’s going to look more like this tax credit program – a free enterprise approach that generates the best of the private sector – than another failed, big-government program.
In fact, the tax credit was so popular this year that it reached its cap of $60 million in early July; many more individuals and companies wanted to donate more than the current law allows. That’s why it’s vital for Georgia lawmakers to expand this program so local communities – not state government – have the tools to save healthcare for thousands of Georgians.
This tax credit is more than just feel-good charity. Purchasing equipment and offering new services geared helps rural hospitals serve people close to home – rather than having to refer them to a doctor all the way in Atlanta. More local treatments for patients results in improved fiscal health for smaller hospitals.
Instead of raising state or local taxes to help rural and community hospitals, with this tax credit citizens and businesses are able to stand with their neighbors and invest in their hometowns and communities.
It’s no secret that there is a great disparity in health outcomes between the residents of the state’s 108 rural counties and the rest of urban, suburban, and exurban Georgia. Eight rural hospitals have closed since 2001, making healthcare delivery a real-life challenge for Georgia families sitting around their dinner table.
Having traveled to every corner of our state, we have listened to the concerns of Georgians from all walks of life. They aren’t looking for another failed, big-government program that promises everything and delivers nothing. People are tired of being told that government has the answer to yet another problem.
Both of us come from the business world and believe in this solution because it puts the healthcare needs of hardworking Georgians first – not government bureaucrats and paper-pushers.
Your zip code should not determine if you can see a doctor today. By expanding this tax credit, businesses and hardworking Georgians can have a say in saving their local healthcare options – and with conservative leadership in our state, we will get it done.