HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Thursday, October 20th, 2005

BALLOTS FOR 2006 MAY FEATURE TOBACCO TAXES, CHILDREN’S COVERAGE

  • Two Different Tobacco Tax Measures Filed with Attorney General
  • Hospital Measure Would Provide Additional ER Funds, even for Already-Reimbursed Care
  • Cancer Research Groups Join with Children and Faith Groups to Expand Child Coverage

A newly formed coalition of health and children’s advocacy groups launched a campaign today to pass a $1.50 increase in the state’s cigarette tax on the November 2006 ballot.

TOBACCO TAX FOR KIDS COVERAGE: Proceeds from the Tobacco Tax, Disease Prevention and Children’s Health Insurance Act would be directed to strengthen and expand existing tobacco prevention efforts, disease prevention, treatment and research programs such as those for heart disease and stroke, cancer and lung disease, and would also provide funding so that every child in California can receive affordable health care insurance.

This measure was filed today with the Attorney General by the Coalition for a Healthy California, which consists of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, California Nurses Association, PICO California, The Children’s Partnership, Children NOW, and the California Primary Care Association. It is expected that this measure is being considered for the November 2006 ballot.

Governor Schwarzenegger cited funding concerns in his recent veto messages on AB 772 (Chan)and AB 1199 (Frommer), the children’s coverage bills sponsored by the 100% Campaign and PICO California Project that went to his desk this year.

Currently, the state’s tobacco tax is $.87/pack, making California’s tobacco tax the 23rd highest in the nation. The state tobacco tax was last raised by $.50 per pack in 1998 by Proposition 10.

The full text of the initiative is available at:
http://www.100percentcampaign.org/assets/pdf/misc-tobacco-legislation-051020.pdf

The press release and fact sheet announcing this measure is at: http://www.100percentcampaign.org/resources/articles/2005/pr-051020.htm
http://www.100percentcampaign.org/resources/publications/fs-051020.htm

TAX FOR HOSPITALS: Another tobacco tax measure, also for $1.50/pack, has already been filed by the California Hospital Association. It is currently awaiting title and summary from the Attorney General. The measure differs from the cancer/children’s effort in that it is being targeted for the June 2006 ballot, and has many policy differences, including how the money raised from the tobacco tax would be spent.

The intent of the measure is to fund emergency room care, with the vast majority of the money allocated to California hospitals based on the number of emergency room visits they receive. Healthcare advocates have raised concerns that the majority of this money will go for care for insured patients, where the hospital has already been reimbursed once.

The measure also includes provisions about hospital overcharging and other billing and collections issues, protections that are scaled down from the pending legislation on this subject, AB772 (Chan), sponsored by Health Access California. If the measure passes, it would require a 4/5 vote to change this or other sections of the initiative, making it extremely difficult to make the language stronger.

The language of this initiative is available at the Attorney General’s website, at:
http://www.ag.ca.gov/initiatives/pdf/sa2005rf0097.pdf

Health Access and other health advocates will soon produce analyses and fact sheets on these proposed initiatives and others, which will be posted on our website, at:
http://www.health-access.org

Obviously, most health advocates are focused on the special election less than three weeks away. However, the filings of these measures indicate that 2006 may also have an active ballot around health issues, including on the key issues of health care revenues, children’s coverage, hospital financing, tobacco taxes, and hospital overcharging and collections practices.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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