By KATHLEEN FOODY
ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia officials hope to quickly extend an annual tax on hospitals that pays for a large share of the state's health care program for low-income residents in 2017.
The quarterly charges on hospitals, disparaged by opponents in the past as a "bed tax," are set to expire on June 30. The state's Medicaid budget could lose more than $880 million if lawmakers don't renew the program.
The tax yielded more than $280 million this year based on hospitals' net patient revenue, plus a federal match of nearly $600 million.
Hospitals get the money back through a higher payment rate from the Medicaid program for treating low-income residents.
Gov. Nathan Deal and others say an extension is a top priority for the legislative session starting in January.