MCDONOUGH, GA. – Just two months shy of heading to the polls and I already feel like I’m being bullied.
Beginning September 15, a well-funded coalition of medical and business organizations began bombarding Georgians with a $1 million fear-tactic ad campaign aimed at garnering “yes” votes on November 2 for Amendment 2.
According to Ballotpedia, the actual wording for the referendum on Amendment 2 reads:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to impose an annual $10.00 trauma charge on certain motor vehicles in this state for the purpose of funding trauma care?
While I am quite sure my automobiles will fall into the class of “certain motor vehicles,” I am similarly sure that there will be exempt classifications under the amendment, and those exemptions will not be clarified until after the public vote.
There is clearly an issue. Georgia’s national health care ranking dropped to 43rd in 2009 from 41st in 2008, and there is overwhelming evidence that the state’s health care system is lacking. Of Georgia’s 152 acute-care hospitals, only 10 percent have trauma centers. It is estimated that deaths attributed to traumatic injuries is 20 percent higher in Georgia than in any other state simply because of the shortage of trauma centers and the extended travel time needed to get to the ones that do exist.
I acutely understand the problem. A few years ago, my youngest daughter had an accident at our church, fell and cut her head open. She was transported 11 miles to the next county to get medical treatment. This despite the fact that we live near the metro Atlanta area where services are far more accessible than in the southern part of the state and in more rural areas. It was arguably the most agonizing 20 minutes of my life. The ads feed on the parental fears that I experienced that day – one showing an injured child needing transport from the scene of a horrific automobile accident.
Experts consider the first 60 minutes critical to the survival rate for traumatic injuries, 30 minutes for children. In cases where injuries are more severe than my daughter’s, those precious minutes in transit can make the difference between life and death.
The Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission has prepared a five-year strategic plan to correct the deficiencies currently existing in Georgia’s state trauma care system. Atop the Commission’s list of objectives is to secure permanent funding for the system. To that end, the $10 tax is estimated to raise $80 million, but I question it as the solution.
Funding “trauma care” covers a variety of areas – from training additional 911 workers, financing emergency room upgrades, purchasing new helicopters, and increased trauma center staffing. With the exemption of training 911 workers, this amounts to raising taxes to subsidize hospitals and other private medical facilities and services.
When my daughter was injured, I had no insurance. I paid all costs out-of-pocket and without the benefit of insurance discounts. While I want, and need, access to trauma centers, these trauma facilities and services should be funded by those who use these facilities and services. This tax cannot guarantee that I, or anyone else who pays the tax for that matter, will actually receive improved accessibility to trauma services.
Amendment 2 is not the first public assessment intended to address the issue.
In January, Georgia instituted a ‘super speeder’ law, tacking on an additional $200 for excessive speeding violations. That money was supposed to help ease the shortfall for trauma care as well. However, it cannot be depended upon as the legislature can apply the money as it deems fit – including to non-trauma related state expenditures.
The super-speeder law only affects those who drive at excessive speeds. However, should Amendment 2 pass, it joins the long list of taxes and fees that the state indiscriminately imposes upon my already stretched budget.
I question the need for Amendment 2 while Georgia is battling nearly 10 percent unemployment. Employed, unemployed – if you have a vehicle, you’re going to pay the tax and subsidize private, as well as community owned, trauma-related businesses and services whether you use them or not.
America’s Health Rankings
Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission
Georgia Statewide Trauma Action Team
Yes 2 Save Lives