Monday, October 20, 2008

Health Care Controversy: Update

Here's a version of the email I sent out today explaining what became a very convoluted issue:

FINAL UPDATE

Today, the County Commission dealt with the issue of the Springdale Health Center (operated by Planned Parenthood) many citizens have emailed us about. As I wrote to many who emailed me, the issue was more complicated than it first appeared.

1. Today’s vote: As was explained in my prior blog entry, the health services (which did not involve abortion services) provided at the Springdale Center were agreed to by the Hamilton County Family and Children First Council, and performed, months ago. Today’s vote was simply to approve a “then and now” resolution, which is a technical affirmation that funds were available earlier this year at the time the non-abortion health services were provided at the Springdale Health Center. As explained in my prior blog entry, under the structure that’s been in place for years, the County Commissioners do not approve contracts or expenditures of the Hamilton County Family and Children First Council (largely because these are all state funds, not County funds). I as a County Commissioner don’t have control over the Council, and do not vote on their payments/contracts. But in this instance, the HCFCF staff made a technical processing error—specifically, they failed to obtain a purchase order for the services in question. Because of that error, the resolution before us simply affirmed that there were dollars available to pay for this service at the time, earlier this year, that the services were due. Voting “yes” to the resolution simply affirmed, as a matter of law, that such funds were available in the HCFCF account at that time—and indeed, there is no question, and the auditor affrimed in writing, that they were. (Voting no would be stating that those funds were not available—which would be knowingly voting for something that is legally and factually false!). Given the technical nature of the resolution, I did vote yes, and it passed.

2. Commissioner DeWine’s Resolution: Today, Commissioner DeWine introduced a resolution that, in the future, would amend the HCFCF policy/process so that we as a County Commission would actually vote on a contract by the HCFCF before it is executed. (The issue here was that the contract was agreed to and executed, and the technical error followed, leading us to vote on the “then and now” resolution after the fact). Commissioner DeWine’s proposal, which could lead to greater transparency about how state pass-through tax dollars are being spent, is something we all agreed to consider and study in light of the debate and many questions of the past week. But there might also be other consequences to this shift, which we also need to weigh and understand. The proposal will be reviewed by the HCFCF, as well as the County Commissioners, and we will make a decision on it at a future Commissioner meeting.

3. Big Picture: Overall, for years, the state has sent money directly to HCFCF to support health services to vulnerable women through numerous vendors. Because of prior commissioners’ concerns, the state has separately sent money directly to the Springdale Health Center/Planned Parenthood over the past ten years, and not through the County or HCFCF. Outside of the isolated payment/contract at issue today, it was explained to us today by the HCFCF executive director that that system separating payments (dollars flow through HCFCF to other vendors, but from the state directly to Springdale) will and must remain the approach in place, because the state communicated to the HCFCF that no changes could be made in the middle of the five-year grant with the state (which we are in the middle of).

PS – For more information on the HCFCF, go to
http://www.hamiltoncountyohio.gov/hcfcfc/Child_Family_Health_Consortium.asp.

The Enquirer summarized the issue pretty well here: http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20081020/NEWS0108/310200046/

2 comments:

Sharon Vietas said...

Thank you, Mr. Pepper for the clear explanation that you gave us on the resolution that you voted on. I am glad to hear that Commissioner DeWine introduced the resolution that could lead to greater transparency about how state pass-through tax dollars are being spent. I also have serious concerns about any tax funding for a Planned Parenthood clinic, regardless of which services are being provided. Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country and I would MUCH prefer to contract truly needed health services out to organizations that do not have any links with that industry. Please continue to keep us posted on Commissioner DeWine's resolution and the discussion it generates.

Quim said...

it's sad we have an religionist nationalist element in this country that seems to be no different than the Taliban.

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