Affordable Care Act could ax Lake County hospital district tax

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Over the last 20 years, Lake County's non-profit hospitals have shared more than $100 million in tax money to provide care for patients who cannot afford to pay.

Some say the hospitals never needed a dime.

"When you see them spending $5 million redoing their facade on the front of the building, you know that they've got a lot of money," said Vance Jochim of the watchdog group Lake County Fiscal Rangers.

The North Lake County Hospital District tax costs the average homeowner about $100 a year.

But the federal Affordable Care Act could end the tax once and for all.

"Is it valid? No. With Obamacare, I think this thing is gone," Lake County resident Ralph Smith said.

Smith has been a critic of the hospital district tax and its board of directors for years.

Board Chairperson Catherine Hanson said axing the tax depends on whether Obamacare covers all the costs.

"The hospitals have to take care of folks whether they can pay or not. I haven't looked at the hospital's books. That's not my job. My job is to try to put the dollars where they need to go," Hanson said.

She agrees the tax might go away.

Smith wouldn't fault hospital executives if they fought to keep it.

"What I fault is the public officials who are elected to represent the people, not one particular business in the county, albeit very important and valuable," Smith said.