After a brief delay, the Louisville Metro Council is expected to continue its payments to University of Louisville Hospital for indigent care. But concerns over the city budget and the hospital’s pending merger have made that money an easy target.
The city gives about $9.6 million to the hospital every year to care for the city’s poor, though some of that money is returned.
Four council members blocked one payment to the hospital this week because they wanted to see more accounting of how the money is spent. They were also protesting potential changes in care, visitation rights and employee benefits that could happen if the hospital merges with Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Health System and a division of Catholic Health Initiatives.
The merger contract will outline the extent to which U of L Hospital and Jewish Hospital will follow religious ethics. The partners have already announced a few changes. Among them:
- Tubal ligations will move to Baptist Hospital East
- Contraception will not be distributed within the hospital, though doctors may still prescribe it
- Employee benefits to spouses and same-sex partners will be replaced with a “plus one” system under which employees could add spouses, partners, relatives or friends to their insurance plans. Hospital executives have not yet determined whether employees will have to pay for the plus one benefits.
“We’re constantly getting opinions from the county attorney: ‘Well you can’t do that because of church/state separation.’ We can’t even give funding to a number of organizations that do very good work because of that,” says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, who led the efforts to table the payment to the hospital. “Why, then, are we giving $9.6 million a year to a public university when they can’t prove that they’re serving indigents and they also, all of a sudden, are claiming they’re not even a public hospital?”