BY JACLYN ROSE –
The January 14 Mena City Council Meeting opened with local Boy Scout Troop 92, in an effort to earn a merit badge, presenting the colors and leading in the Pledge of Allegiance.
While giving the department head reports, Tim Bowen, President of Mena Regional Health System, presented the monthly, as well as year end reports for the hospital. He then went on to explain a few of the ways the Affordable Care Act, passed by the U.S. Congress is going to negatively impact the local hospital. According to Bowen, the 2% annual cut in Medicare payments alone cost the hospital $350,000 last year, and each year another 2% will be cut. He explained that the hospital is receiving this cut while still completing the same tasks as they have done in years prior. Unfortunately, this Medicare cut is just one example of the negative impact on MRHS from the Affordable Care Act.
Bowen did provide positive news to the Council. Quality scores for MRHS are at an all time high and are some of the best in the state. He went on to explain he believes health care is seeing a shift from a volume based system to a value based system and due to this, and their high quality scores, MRHS will survive the changes in healthcare. Bowen also asked the council to encourage the local community to do all they can to support the local hospital, as he explained the efforts of the MRHS leadership team, as well as the physicians to decrease expenses and generate new service lines.
Harold Coogan also addressed the Mena City Council on behalf of the Polk County Quorum Court to discuss the Special County-Wide One-Cent Sales Tax. This tax was passed with 67% of the vote in a special election in March of 2007. The tax, a temporary one, set to expire 7 years after being enacted , benefits not only the county as a whole, but each of the 6 individual cities within the county.
The 1% sales tax is collected by the state of Arkansas, who retains 3% as a small handling fee, the remainder is then distributed to the county and the cities based on population. The county has a restriction on the funds it acquires from the tax, with 100% of it going to Polk County road improvements.
The funds provided to each individual city do not have any restrictions and can be used however the city sees fit. Coogan provided figures to the council showing how the $2.2 million collected annually by this tax is distributed and reminded the council how important the funds are to the annual budget. He also reminded the council of the election to be held March 11, 2014, that will allow Polk County voters to decide to renew this tax for 7 more years.