Both hospitals in Ellis County could be eligible for healthcare provider participation funds by the end of the year, should the commissioners’ court decide to do so.

State Representative John Wray recently filed House Bill 4548 in the 86th Texas Legislature. According to the bill’s text, the act would help create and operate health care provider participation programs in some counties. One of those counties would be Ellis.

The commissioners’ court held a workshop and discussion over the topic Tuesday at the Historic Courthouse. Speaking on behalf of the proposal was Jack Wilcox, who is the chief financial officer for the Ennis Regional Medical Center.

“The goal is to make this as easy on the county as possible,” Wilcox expressed. “The supplemental payments are there to help hospitals to close in that difference between the cost and the payment that the hospitals receive on a point-by-point basis.”

The Texas Legislature created Local Provider Participation Funds in 2010 to assist local health care providers in financial solutions. According to Wilcox, there are currently 19 LPPF jurisdictions in the state of Texas, including several counties, one city in Beaumont and one hospital district in Amarillo.

To qualify for an LPPF, a jurisdiction has to have more than one hospital in its area. Ellis County currently has two— Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie and Ennis Regional Hospital — and will soon have a third when Methodist Midlothian Medical Center opens in 2020.

The county would assess the two current hospitals on their total net patient revenues. The hospitals would pay fees based on those assessments and would be deposited into a separate bank account. Those funds would be used to cover medical costs for uncompensated care and Medicaid.

Assessments are not allowed to exceed six percent under the bill.

“Healthcare is a complicated industry,” Wilcox stated “The interesting thing about this concept is that this is a localized solution to some of our healthcare issues. That’s one of the neat things about this program.”

When Ellis County Judge Todd Little asked why more counties weren’t a part of this program, Wilcox explained that these programs are population-driven and that different jurisdictions use different programs for their uncompensated care funds.

He also explained that the county could pull out of this agreement, should they so decide.

“Nothing can happen unless the court approves it,” Wilcox expressed. “You have complete control. This court has complete control.”

The bill was referred to the House Committee on County Affairs on Tuesday and is scheduled for a public hearing on April 4. If the bill passes in May, it will be up to the commissioners’ court to decide how to administer the program for the county.

Wilcox stated a draft resolution would be sent to the commissioners for review beforehand.