Imagine going into labor early or seeing your husband experience chest pains and having to travel hours to the nearest hospital to seek emergency care. For those in rural areas across the country, this is a reality. In our own home state of Georgia, eight rural hospitals have closed since 2001, and that trend is worsening. According to a Navigant Consulting study released earlier in 2019, 20 percent of rural hospitals are at risk of closing. The South, particularly Georgia, would be among the hardest-hit areas. This would be devastating since rural hospitals are vital to their communities, both in terms of access to patient care and economic development and growth.
What if there was a way you could help a rural Georgia hospital of your choice while also receiving tax benefits?
There is. With the Georgia HEART Hospital Program.
What is Georgia HEART?
HEART stands for “Helping Enhance Access to Rural Treatment,” which effectively sums up its mission. Passed in 2016 and enacted in 2017, the program awards Georgia income tax credits to individuals and corporations who contribute to qualified rural hospitals in Georgia.
Hospitals must meet certain criteria to participate in the Georgia HEART program, including the following:
- County population size (50,000 or less, excluding military personnel);
- Tax-exempt status or public hospital authority management;
- Acceptance of Medicare and Medicaid; and
- Minimum annual provision of indigent or uncompensated care.
In addition, rural hospitals have to file a five-year plan with the Georgia Department of Community Health (“DCH”). Presently, there are 58 qualified rural hospitals, all of which are participating in Georgia HEART.
There are four primary categories where funds can be used: clinical enhancements, operational improvements, capital projects, and workforce initiatives. From raising nursing salaries and recruiting physicians to basic yet crucial updates to facilities, equipment and administrative programs, Georgia HEART funds can help hospitals in a variety of ways. This ensures hospitals can provide quality patient care and comply with safety standards and regulatory requirements. And in some instances, it literally keeps their doors open.
How can I participate?
According to the Georgia HEART website,“From 2018 through 2021, Georgia taxpayers can access $60 million of RHO tax credits each year, with each qualified RHO having access to $4 million of tax credits (until the total annual $60 million cap is met). During the first six months of each year, a qualified RHO may only accept $2 million of corporate contributions and $2 million of individual contributions.”
While there are caps for individuals and corporations, after June 30, limits for individuals will expire, and individuals can donate as much as they’d like until the $60 million of tax credits are full.
As a family owned business located in a rural community, we understand the importance of rural health facilities to the communities they serve. We also greatly understand the needs and pain points facing rural hospitals with whom we partner. Tax credits offer a wonderful way help ease the crisis faced by rural hospitals while also positively impacting tax-paying Georgians and Georgia businesses.
Visit the Georgia HEART website or talk with your CPA today to learn more about Georgia HEART and the opportunity to benefit the rural hospital of your choice, perhaps in your own backyard.