Lee County belt tightening means a reduction in hospice care
Lee County Supervisors are looking for ways to reduce spending. As a result, the health department is scaling back the level of hospice care it provides terminally ill residents.
Administrator Michele Ross said the department has pushed to retain hospice service but will refer more residents to private providers.
“There was a lot of discussion about whether or not we should continue providing services to the public in our service area,” Ross said. “We have been making the case through our board of health that we would like to continue providing our comprehensive hospice services.”
Ross said the health department currently bills Medicare and Medicaid and has contracts with insurance companies. She said the department is proposing that its next budget remove tax support from these sources while limiting the number of residents who receive hospice care.
In December, the Board of Supervisors discussed cutting hospice care to help reduce the county’s current tax levy. The proposed cut is a result of a bill passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2023. It requires all counties to reduce general tax levies to $3.50 per $1,000 assessed property valuation by 2029.
Lee County currently has a general tax levy of $5.85.
Ross said the county health department provided hospice care for 94 residents during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2023.
“We've been around for over 30 years, and we feel like we provide a quality service,” she said.
She did not say how much funding the health department needs to cut to meet its budget or how many programs or employees could be affected.
Ross said she anticipates that the plan for the health department’s restructured hospice services will be finalized by April.
The county’s next fiscal year begins on July 1.
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