Sacramento Bee Examines Ballot Measure To Fund Emergency Care
The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday looked at Proposition 67, a measure on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would impose a 3% surcharge on telephone bills to fund emergency care for the uninsured (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 10/12). If approved, Proposition 67 could raise about $550 million annually for hospitals statewide to help finance emergency departments, trauma centers and health clinics and pay for physician training and emergency medical equipment (California Healthline, 10/8).
Doctors' organizations have raised about $3 million to promote Proposition 67, and telephone companies have raised $6 million for the campaign against the measure.
The California Medical Association and the California chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians support the measure, which they say would "help stave off more [ED] shutdowns and avert a disastrous shortage of urgent care" that would affect all state residents, the Bee reports. Since 2000, 28 EDs statewide have closed because of financial problems, according to the Bee. At the same time, the number of ED visits increased from 9.4 million in 1992 to 9.9 million in 2001, according to the latest available state statistics.
Jack Lewin, CEO of CMA, said ED costs are rising faster than funding from Medicaid, state tobacco tax revenue, county funds from criminal fines and tax benefits for not-for-profit hospitals. "We are just at our wit's end as to what we're going to do in California to provide the kind of quality of care and emergency and trauma service that people think we have," Lewin said.
Phone companies, such as SBC and Verizon, and other opponents to the measure say a phone tax will not address California's "larger health care woes," including rising health care costs, a higher number of uninsured residents and "expensive state regulations governing hospital buildings and staff," the Bee reports.
Todd Harris, a spokesperson for the Stop the Phone Tax campaign, said that Proposition 67 will not "do a thing to keep a single emergency room open," adding, "All it's going to do is add an unnecessary and unrelated new tax onto everyone's phone bills" (Sacramento Bee, 10/12).
Additional information about Proposition 67 is available online.