Sunday, October 25, 2009

IU's New Hospital

Carl Moldthan of the Indianapolis Taxpayers PAC cuts right to the chase in a viewpoint in today's Star about the real reason the Health & Hospital Corporation is proposing to build a new hospital. "Should Marion County property taxpayers pay for a new building that to a large degree serves as a teaching hospital for Indiana University School of Medicine?," he asks. Moldthan describes how for the past 25 years Wishard has had a relationship with IU-related organizations to provide medical staffing at the hospital in consideration for allowing the IU medical school to train doctors and perform research at Wishard. Wishard pays IU a staggering $58.2 million a year for these services that are so critical it says to its medical school. It's obvious how this benefits IU, but how does it benefit Wishard? Moldthan writes:

The value to HHC is said to be that the IU faculty and students provide the medical staff for the hospital and clinics, staff that HHC does not have to hire. From the contract itself and information the school is willing to reveal, it is impossible to tell whether this is a good deal for HHC. There are clues, however. Not all the physicians at the hospital are provided by the School of Medicine. Currently, Wishard has 76 doctors whom HHC pays to work at Wishard: 31 psychiatrists, 23 unspecified-specialty physicians and 22 OB/GYNs. The total compensation for this group is $12.4 million, an average annual salary of $163,000 based on a 40-hour work week. Using that figure as an average, HHC could hire 357 physicians with what it pays to the IUSOM-related groups.

It doesn't look like a bargain for Marion County taxpayers who own and contribute taxes to support Wishard Hospital. Moldthan observes that IU-related organizations have contributed over $1 million to the Citizens for Wishard PAC lobbying for passage of the referendum. By comparison, only three HHC employees gave a total of $125 to the PAC. Moldthan wonders why IU isn't contributing towards the construction of the new hospital given the obvious financial benefit it receives from it. Moldthan's viewpoint doesn't mention it, but he made an offer to IU to withdraw his opposition to the referendum if IU would publicly agree to cover any shortfall should HHC's revenues be inadequate to cover repayment of the bonds. That would ensure that Marion Co. property taxpayers won't have to pay for the new hospital through higher property taxes, which is what is currently being proposed at the November 3 special election. IU declined the offer. It knows and HHC knows that the nursing home revenues will eventually dry up and force HHC to tap property taxes to pay for a hospital that is being built to support IU's medical school and only secondarily to provide services to the citizens of Marion County.

Despite the fact that the Star has run one pro-Wishard viewpoint after another for the past several weeks, it wouldn't run Moldthan's viewpoint without running yet another pro-Wishard viewpoint next to it. This one was penned by the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce's Roland Dorson, who hasn't see a tax increase he doesn't like. I frankly don't understand why any legitimate business owner in Marion County would join his group. It essentially exists to advocate for public subsidies and tax give-aways to a handful of connected businesses. His group essentially wants to shift the tax burden to working class people and small business owners to help this small group of insiders, which helps explain why so many people are fleeing Marion County and moving out into the suburban counties. Dorson reiterates the meme of the referendum proponents that no new property tax revenues will be needed. It's just a guarantee he explains, a guarantee IU wants no part of it and it is the one entity that benefits more than any other if a new hospital is built on the backs of Marion Co. property taxpayers.

Here's the bottom line. Even if you vote down the Wishard referendum on November 3, the new hospital will be built--if you believe what the proponents are telling us. The revenue stream is so reliable that it won't be necessary to tap property tax revenues they assure us. Then that means the HHC will simply be able to issue revenue bonds pledging those revenues instead of general obligation bonds backed by property taxes to finance construction of the new hospital. That's how we built the Lucas Oil Stadium. That' how we financed a new airport terminal for the Indianapolis Airport Authority. So vote no on the Wishard referendum. You can have your cake and eat it too.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary, I notice that Moldthan quotes Mitch Roob's comment about HH's nursing home Medicaid income, but that it just stops short of when Roob refers to it as a "scam." I would have thought Moldthan would have included that. One has to wonder if he did and the Star edited it out.

Advance Indiana said...

You had to go to Norm Cox's story to find that quote, Paul. I don't think Carl ever saw the original quote. I told him about it, but he relied on the Star's softened quote obtained from Roob days after Roob gave that original interview to Cox.

Downtown Indy said...

Twice today, IndyStar has published the same lie:

"The countywide referendum allows voters to decide whether the county will spend $754 million to build a new facility for Wishard Memorial Hospital."

Of course it really just determines what kinds of bonds they will be allowed to use to raise that $754M.

But the Star won't dare to be that forthright or *gasp* unbiased by saying the truth.

I don't care WHAT Ryerson thinks, they ARE simply lying about it.