Medical Group Coalition Proposes Ballot Initiative To Fund Emergency Care Providers
A coalition of medical groups has "quietly" proposed a ballot initiative for the November 2004 election that would generate as much as $800 million annually to help fund emergency care providers, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The Coalition to Preserve Emergency Care, which is comprised of the California Healthcare Association, the California Medical Association and the American College of Emergency Physicians of California, has not yet announced how the funds would be raised. However, several coalition officials speaking on the condition of anonymity say the most likely plan involves a ballot initiative to increase the state's tax on long-distance phone calls originating from within the state from 0.72% to 3.72%, or about 50 cents per month on an average consumer's bill, which funds the emergency 911 system. People with disabilities and low-income seniors would be exempt from the charge or would pay minimal amounts, according to the Union-Tribune. The tax, called the Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge, currently raises approximately $125 million per year to support the state's 911 system. Coalition officials said the increased tax could raise between $500 million and $800 million per year. Of those funds, 66% would go to hospitals to fund emergency room operating expenses and 30% would go toward supplementing pay for physicians to be on call in ERs, while some portion of the remainder would be allocated to paramedics, community clinics and the state's 911 system. The Union-Tribune reports that complete details will be available in the "next week or two." A recent survey that the coalition commissioned found that more than 66% of state residents would support paying three percentage points more on their 911 phone taxes (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/5).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.