Fresno Bee Examines Measure To Fund Emergency Care
The Fresno Bee on Thursday looked at Proposition 67, a measure on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would impose a 3% surcharge on telephone bills to fund emergency departments, trauma centers and health clinics and pay for physician training and emergency medical equipment (Correa, Fresno Bee, 10/7). If approved, Proposition 67 could raise about $550 million annually for hospitals statewide (California Healthline, 9/7).
Under the measure, hospitals would receive about 60% of the funding, physicians would receive 30.5%, community clinics would get 5%, emergency responders and first responders would receive 3.75% and 911 services would get 0.75% of funds, the Bee reports.
Supporters of the initiative say it would help address some of the financial pressure on the state's hospitals, whose EDs are losing millions of dollars on charity care.
Hospitals such as University Medical Center and Community Medical Center-Fresno in Fresno, which largely treat uninsured patients, are having difficulty persuading specialty physicians to respond to ED calls because reimbursement rates are so low, according to the Bee.
Robert Montion, CEO of Tulare District Hospital, said, "There is going to be some point when the public will have to recognize that we can't continue to maintain ERs if there is not enough money coming in."
Opponents of the measure say that it would create an "unnecessary tax on an unrelated service that will do little to nothing to improve emergency services," the Bee reports.
Todd Harris, a spokesperson for Stop the Phone Tax, said, "All it is is a $540 million new phone tax. Not a dime of it would go to increase the number of beds in the emergency room. Not a dime would go to see additional patients to make sure that more people are treated" (Fresno Bee, 10/7).
Although Proposition 67 "may not be the best way to create tax policy," it is "a small price to pay to keep emergency departments open and staffed," Marc Snyder, chief of emergency medicine at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco, writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. Several hospitals in the Bay Area have already closed their EDs, leaving EDs such as the unit at San Francisco General "so overwhelmed that the staff turns away ambulances with nontrauma emergencies as often as 30% of the time every month," Snyder continues. Snyder recommends that state residents vote "yes" on Proposition 67 (Snyder, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.