State Residents Show Limited Support for Ballot Measure To Fund Emergency Care
California voters "appear to be lukewarm" about supporting 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, according to some experts, the Los Angeles Times reports (Halper, Los Angeles Times, 10/25). If approved, Proposition 67 would 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, 10/20).
According to the Times, some analysts say proponents of the measure "picked the wrong tax" to provide funding for EDs and trauma centers. The state Republican and Democratic parties, as well as several public safety organizations, have joined telephone companies in opposing the measure and have questioned taxing a service unrelated to health care and how hospitals would manage the $550 million raised by the measure.
Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, said that California voters do not see a connection between phone taxes and EDs and are "simply objecting to paying this way."
Darry Sragow, a Democratic political consultant, said the "fundamental problem" with Proposition 67 is that the tax would be paid by many California residents. Sragow added, "Phone bills are already a source of great annoyance to customers."
Todd Harris, a spokesperson for the campaign opposing the measure, said the tax is "as absurd as saying we should tax strawberries to pay for road construction."
Jack Lewin, executive vice president of the California Medical Association, said that without state or federal funding, everyone is "groping" to finance health care, adding, "Everyone wants health care, but they want someone else to pay for it. There was no place else to go"
The initiative is now "widely viewed" as a "longshot" campaign, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 10/25).
The Sacramento Bee on Sunday published an analysis of a television advertisement by a group recommending that state residents reject the initiative. According to the Bee, the ad's claims are "technically true" but use percentages and provide partial information to give an "inflated" cost projection for individual consumers.
The Bee analysis includes a transcript of the ad (Sacramento Bee, 10/24).
The "most important thing to understand about Proposition 67 is that your life may depend upon it," columnist Debra Saunders writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. "A 'yes' vote should stop the hemorrhaging of emergency rooms," Saunders writes, concluding that state residents can vote "no" on the measure on the principle of opposing higher taxes "then cross their fingers that if they do have to dial 911, there will be a nearby facility where the ambulance can go" (Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24).
Additional information about Proposition 67 is available online.