Sunday, February 03, 2008

Public or private funding for CareNet?

That's the question ... and it's a good one to ask.

CareNet is a non-profit organization that connects individuals without insurance to health care providers. Their clients are primarily low-income who fall in the gap of earning too much money to qualify for public assistance, but not enough to afford the cost of health insurance. Their $300,000 (+/-) yearly funding pays for the administration and tracking of the clients, and the recruitment and monitoring of the volunteered provider services.

CareNet was started in 2003 by former Toledo mayor Jack Ford who put together the coalition of funders. The program is run through the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio. As one of the major founders, since 2003 the City of Toledo has contributed money out of the general fund for the operations.

Last year, current mayor Carty Finkbeiner did not include funding for CareNet in the 2007 budget. Toledo City Council did - and the organization got around $62,000. This year, Carty again eliminated funding from his proposed 2008 budget. And it looked like Council was going to again fund the organization. But Councilman Tom Waniewski (the new District 5 representative who took office the first of January) objected to using general fund dollars for a non-profit organization and asked for a two-week delay on the vote to see if he could find private funds to take the place of the city's 'obligation.'

And, to the surprise of many in city government, he was successful. Turns out, there are quite a number of organizations and individuals who are willing to put their own money into supporting this great organization. The contributors even included Carty and three city administrators, but, interestingly enough, not one member of city council was willing to put their own money into the effort.

Now that funding for the organization is set for 2008, the city should start working with them to arrange a permanent replacement for the general fund dollars. That there were donations this year is a good indication that such an alternative will be successful on a permanent basis.

But today's Blade editorial seems to think otherwise, with the headline of "CareNet a public duty." And I have to ask - why? Why must funding for this organization be the responsibility of the taxpayers if there are private funds which can provide for its operations?

According to the editorial, the private funding "...should not suggest, however, that the city be let off the hook from providing CareNet support in the future." They say it's a worthwhile and, for some, a necessary program.

They also say, "We believe the city has a reasonable obligation to help fund CareNet and should continue it." But they don't explain WHY the obligation is there.

They do say: "Private funding will help relieve pressure on the city budget, to be sure, but it could be withdrawn. CareNet is too important to live hand-to-mouth from year to year."

If this is, indeed, the case (and there is no evidence that it is), then why shouldn't the priority be to find a stable source of non-public funds? Why is it that the only solution the editorial offers is to continue to use our severely limited tax dollars?

Here's my question for city council and The Blade:

If this is such a great program and is so worthy of public dollars - to the point where the public should be taxed more or give up other services to make this a priority - how much did you contribute of your own funds before taking from the rest of us?

5 comments:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

To me, if the Blade feels so strongly about CareNet, then maybe they should lead by example and pledge to perpetually fund it themselves.

That would show Toledo what the Blade is made of.

Now that would be a real example!

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

It is no real surprise that the Blade is pushing for city participation in Care Net, when they seem to be for government participation in health care at every level; city, state, and federal. It's editorial position for many months in fact, have shown it in favor of the taking over of health care by government. That such funding increases will invariably raise the level of government debt and lead to a push to increase the tax burden on citizens seems to be of little concern to the Blade's editorial board.

The Blade calls for fiscal responsibility from one side of its face, and more government welfare from the other. While contradictory, this two-face philosophy is not surprising; but it is a sad commentary on the Blade.

jrs said...

For me the real story in all of this is how a local politician actually put his money where his mouth was (and the rest of council to shame, btw)and went out and raised the money (with no fanfare)!

Imagine having a thought, then an idea, next a plan, and finally the cajones to do what's right !

Betcha Waniewski's the next Council Prez...

Maggie Thurber said...

Nah...even though he'd deserve it, they'd never let a Republican be president of council...

too bad!

Lisa Renee said...

Rob Ludeman was Council President and Mark Sobczak was elected because of three Republicans on Council.

That said, the problems related to health care and the increasing costs is one that should be addressed. It is having a huge impact on our economy and our spendable income, the problem is of course no one seems to agree on a solution or where the solution should come from. Though it's clear that the health care industry and the health insurance industry are not doing a great job at controlling costs.

The bottom line philosophical question is should government help people, some believe it should and some believe that those who can not afford health care, food, whatever the basic human need is should figure out their own way without tax dollars being used.

It would be great if the private sector could meet the needs of those who require additional assistance, the reality is that doesn't happen. In similar to a what came first the chicken or the egg type argument, did the private sector stop because the government started or did the government start because the private sector stopped...I encourage all of those who do not feel that tax dollars should be spent on basic human need type issues to find sources to replace the tax dollars. Similar to what Tom Waniewski did, it would be a great way to demonstrate that not only can it be done, but to lead by example.

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