Once again, we’re hearing the old shibboleth that Collin County citizens are not paying their fair share at Dallas County’s Parkland Hospital. And Dallas County officials, Parkland’s CEO, and the press never fail to mention our low tax rate during these arguments.
It’s not unusual for Collin County’s tax rate to catch the attention of government officials from outside the county. After all, a lot of powerful people don’t like that we have the lowest county tax rate in the state.
Condemning Deviation from the Norm
Let’s face it, lowering taxes is not typical in government circles. The norm for local governments is to raise taxes and expand their influence as far as it can reach.
It reminds me of that old quote from John D. Rockefeller, who was the richest man in America in his day. When he was asked, “How much is enough?” He answered, “Just a little more.”
For most governments, that’s the answer–and it never changes. Collin County, on the other hand, chooses to answer that question differently.
That’s why Collin receives the kind of harsh treatment reserved for those who deviate from established group norms. We’ve seen it over and over again: increased communications, then decreased communications, exclusion—and eventually, demonization.
Using Misleading Rhetoric to Conceal the Data
It’s clear that when it comes to Parkland, the DMN editorial board has an agenda. And they’re willing to push that agenda, even to the point of using misleading rhetoric to do so.
For instance, in their most recent editorial on the Parkland issue, they claim, “the low-income threshold for care is so low in most surrounding counties that many uninsured people don’t qualify and often must wait until a health-care crisis before seeking care.”
But the same piece glosses over the fact that Collin County’s indigent care coverage is nearly 10times as generous as coverage provided by other area counties. Patients can qualify for health coverage if their incomes reach up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Federal law requires us to cover only those at 21 percent of the poverty level.
Yet, the DMN dishonestly lumps Collin with “most surrounding counties” and expects you to infer that our safety net is stingy.
Since that 2008 bond election, Collin County’s medical capabilities have only grown. Collin County has established Project Access to care for our indigent citizens. Medical City Plano has been designated a Level 1 trauma center, like Parkland. And we’ve established a Local Mental Health Authority to provide mental health treatments previously concentrated in Dallas County.
In the future, we can expect significantly more separation from Dallas County, not more integration.
Changing the Story to Suit the Agenda
These days, the DallasMorningNews wrongly accuses Collin County of not paying its fair share for the medical treatment of our indigent population. But there was a time when they sang a different tune.
During the 2008 Parkland Hospital bond election, the DMN touted the revenue stream that Collin County represented to Parkland. In fact, 45% of Collin patients at Parkland had insurance. Of the Parkland patients from Dallas county, only 7% had insurance.
Those numbers were convenient at the time because they served a purpose—to convince Dallas County taxpayers to foot the bill for a major expansion. But the money has run out, and now our Collin citizens supposedly represent a drain on Parkland.
Paying for Bad Budgeting
All hospitals operate under the same federal laws and won’t turn away people with urgent medical needs, regardless of their ability to pay.
The difference lies in budgeting decisions, not only the decisions of county governments, but also the decisions made by the hospitals that treat those uninsured patients.
Collin County has no control over the way Parkland spends taxpayer dollars. Their sleek, new, budget-busting facilities include a 1.4 acre curvilinear wellness garden, for instance. And, from what I understand, all of their 870 new patient rooms are private.
The question for Collin County taxpayers is—Do you want your taxes to increase by more than 50% to support another county’s hospital? That’s what Parkland’s CEO and the Dallas Morning News want.
The Parkland Hospital property tax rate is 27.94 cents; the Dallas County rate including Parkland is 65.47 cents. By comparison, the Collin County property tax rate is 20.84 cents. Our rate is 25% lower thanParkland’salone and 69% lower than the Dallas County total rate.
It looks like there is a long-term campaign underway to protect Parkland by pilfering the public pocketbook. It’s been tried before as recently as the 2015 legislative session. It failed the last time. It will rightly fail again.