New Ads Oppose Tobacco Tax Increase
Tobacco companies began airing two television advertisements this week urging voters to reject Proposition 86, a measure on the November ballot that would increase the state tobacco tax by $2.60 per pack to fund health programs, the Sacramento Bee reports.
In one of the ads, a narrator says that under the measure, "hospitals wrote themselves an exemption to antitrust laws, letting them collude to fix prices, limit competition and restrict patient access to services." The ad says the measure "lets hospitals escape civil and criminal penalties for anti-consumer activities that are otherwise illegal."
According to a Bee analysis of the ad, "Tobacco companies are trying to scare voters away from voting on Proposition 86 by focusing on a small part of the broader measure." The Bee states that while there is "some truth to this ad," it "delves into the measure's fine print for its central argument: that the hospitals will be able to escape legal penalties for 'anti-consumer' activities."
The measure "actually says" that hospitals cannot be penalized under antitrust laws if they work together to ensure there are enough medical specialists on duty in a given region to meet patient demand, the Bee reports. Any collaboration would have to be approved by local governments.
In addition, the measure states that all hospitals in a given region equally are responsible for treating uninsured patients and that hospitals would be subject to new limits on what they could charge low-income emergency department patients (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 8/19).