by Max Brantley
A doctor who backs legislation to raise insurance taxes to pay for a statewide trauma system writes a letter to me and others about the failure, so far, to get this legislation passed. The problem has been the money source -- the insurance industry doesn't want a tax increase; a court system where court costs are already overburdened with all kinds of special fees didn't want payment done that way. A fair question is why a session with $900 million in surplus, and a 10 percent general budget increase even after cutting a quarter-of-a-billion in sales taxes and corporate welfare out the wazoo, including for low-wage manufacturing plants, can't provide this money without a tax/fee increase.
Dr. Joseph Jensen's letter and a hospital association note on the jump. (One clarification: though UAMS is not currently accredited as a trauma center, he has previously assured me that it would be if it applied for accreditation.)
It might be worth noting that UAMS seems to have placed a higher priority on its cancer research center expansion than on this project, if success in the search for money is any measure.
LETTER FROM DR. JOSEPH JENSEN
We have a billion dollar surplus, and you are doing a good job of covering how it’s being spent – including on the Governor’s new airplane. You’re also doing a great job on letting us know where the apostrophe should be, the status of extreme gay-hating laws that have no chance of passage anyway, and the details of a new U.S. Marshal’s museum in Ft.
We are still the only state in the country without a single trauma center and only one of three states in the country without a statewide trauma system (two, really if you look closely at the details).
The MED takes up the slack in east Arkansas, to the tune of $10 million per year (for which we pay them $1 million). Any surprise that they’re seriously looking at cutting off Arkansas citizens? Next time you’re in West Memphis be sure and try not to have an auto accident.
There are between 200 and 600 unnecessary deaths in Arkansas every year because we don’t have a statewide trauma system. Think about that as you see the news reports of the Arkansans who die from highway accidents, jet-ski and boating accidents, and other injuries this weekend. Some of them probably didn’t have to die.
As respected journalists, you have the opportunity to bring public debate to this as a Senate – House compromise committee is trying to find an agreement to fund a trauma system. You’d think that in a year of a billion dollar surplus we could find a way to fund a life-saving system that’s 3% of that cost. We haven’t even talked about cost benefits by reducing severity of injury and improving rehabilitation.
Senator’s Critcher and Steele, and Rep. Sumpter are trying their best to make this work. Their job would be a lot easier of responsible journalists would let the public know why this is important to anyone who drives or rides in a car.
Unless you think the stuff you’re reporting on now is more important.
Kindest personal regards
Joseph Jensen, M.D.
(from the Arkansas Hospital Association)
House Bill 1575, the statewide trauma system legislation, passed the Senate on Monday with the increase in the automobile insurances premiums as the funding source.
On Tuesday, the House Public Health Committee failed to concur in the Senate amendment, and a motion was made to recommend a conference committee to settle the different funding sources in the House and Senate versions of the bill. A conference committee is a very rare occurrence, but can be used to settle an amendment difference between the House and Senate.
The conference committee members are Representatives Sumpter, Pace, Reep and Thyer and Senators Critcher, Horn, Steele, and Glover. The committee met on Friday afternoon and could not come to an agreement on a funding source. The committee will meet again on Monday morning, and an agreement must be made then or the bill will die.