West Calcasieu Chamber endorses hospital tax millage renewal

Heather Regan White / The American Press

WESTLAKE — The West Calcasieu Chamber of Commerce has passed a resolution supporting West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital’s tax millage renewal request that will appear on the April 28 ballot.

The chamber unanimously supported the motion, introduced by member Joe Andrepont.

WCCH CEO Janie Frugé told chamber members that the requested 6.95 mills, levied over a 10-year period, will be capped and will be rolled back at the renewal date, contingent upon maintaining 90-100 days of operating expenses through the renewal date. Until last year the WCCH service district millage rate was 9.3, but in December a $25 million bond issue — $10 million levied in 2006 and $15 million in 2008 — expired. Only the 6.95 mills remains. 

The tax is for maintaining, operating and improving the hospital’s facilities. None of the funds will be used for salaries. Frugé said local industry bears about 70 percent of the millage burden.

Several factors have created the need for this renewal, she said. 

Frugé said the privatization of Moss Regional in 2013 created a spike in the level of uncompensated care the hospital was providing.

“We’re talking about patients who are self-paying — meaning they don’t have any private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid,” she said. 

Frugé said the hospital is compensated for only about 50 percent to 60 percent of the charges accrued by Medicare patients. For a Medicaid patient, WCCH receives 10 cents for every dollar charged.

WCCH is a nonprofit, governmental service district authorized by state legislation, she said. 

The hospital service district was created by the Calcasieu and Cameron police juries in 1951, and encompassed all of Wards 4 and 7 in Calcasieu and Ward 6 in Cameron. The five appointees to the first board of directors secured the funds for building the hospital.

In addition to the $325,000 bond issue passed by the voters, they obtained 78 percent of the funds through a federal program known as the Hill-Burton Act.

“They community showed further support for the project with an additional $18,000 contributed by churches and other organizations,” Frugé said. “Just as it is today, West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital was a focus of pride for the community.”