Local Legislators Endorse Proposed County Healthcare Initiative
ORANGE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 16, 2000--The Citizens Health Alliance to Reinvest the Tobacco Settlement (CHARTS), announced that several local state and federal legislators have endorsed the proposed countywide ballot initiative to ensure that th
Also announced, the campaign will start today to gather signatures for placement on the November ballot.
``Health care is a bipartisan issue and we are pleased that so many legislators have come aboard,'' said J. Brennan Cassidy, M.D., President of the Orange County Medical Association (OCMA) and one of the proponents of the measure.
The legislators endorsing the measure include Congress members Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim), Assembly members Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach), Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and Ken Maddox (R-Garden Grove).
Former State Senator and County Supervisor Marian Bergeson (Newport Beach) and current State Senator Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) are both proponents of the initiative along with Cassidy, of OCMA, AARP and the Society of Orange County Emergency Physicians (SOCEP). The measure is also actively supported by the Healthcare Association of Southern California (representing local hospitals) and the Orange County Congregation of Community Organizations (OCCCO).
``It's particularly gratifying that elected officials at all levels are endorsing the measure,'' said Marian Bergeson. ``It shows that this issue is reaching all levels of government leadership, across all regions of the county.''
Senator Dunn, an attorney who participated in the national tobacco litigation before his 1998 election to the senate noted, ``The litigation was about health and healthcare issues that affect everyone in our society. We encourage all local elected officials to endorse the measure. Voters will want to know what their elected officials have to say about this important issue.''
Dr. Abbott of SOCEP is a long-time emergency physician at St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton and President of the California Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He announced that the measure has completed its necessary reviews by County Counsel allowing the signature gathering activities to commence.
``We're right on schedule,'' he noted, ``We're using both paid signature gatherers and an array of volunteer efforts,'' including a special mailing by AARP to more than 100,000 households. ``There's a lot of energy in this effort because of the principle involved -- most people simply believe these are health care dollars, pure and simple.''
Peter F. Bastone, president and chief executive officer of Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center added that the hospitals are committed to the successful passage of the measure. He maintained, ``Twenty-six out of the thirty-one hospitals serving Orange County residents operate emergency rooms that are accessible to all, regardless of ability to pay, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is only through this that we can hope to repair the harm done by the tobacco companies and provide a health care safety net for County residents.''
The measure was filed late last month, after year-long discussions and debate where local health, non-profit, religious and community organizations could not convince the Orange County Board of Supervisors to allocate the annual revenues of the multi-billion dollar national tobacco lawsuit settlement for health programs. Orange County's annual share is estimated at between $30-38 million annually for 25 years.
Despite an October 1999 countywide poll showing 81 percent of Orange County voters supporting the reinvestment of these funds into health care, supervisors rejected all compromises proposed by the community groups. Instead, as late as January, supervisors endorsed spending 80 percent or more of the tobacco lawsuit dollars on debt retirement and jail-related construction.
Under the measure proposed by the healthcare advocates, supervisors would be required to invest 80 percent of the annual funds into a variety of critical health care programs, including senior medical transportation, non-profit community clinics, tobacco education and prevention, mental health, hospitals and funding for emergency physician services. The remaining 20 percent is allocated toward law enforcement programs.
``All of the programs and services we are targeting are in great need,'' said AARP representative Joe Drlik, Regional Coordinator for AARP. ``Orange County has unmet health needs that touch everyone.''
Proponents must gather 71,206 valid signatures before June 1st to qualify the measure for the November ballot. A summary of the measure is attached.
Summary of Proposed November 2000 OC Ballot Measure
If passed, the measure will require that Orange County commit no less than 80 percent of its annual share of moneys from the National Tobacco Settlement (NTS) Agreement to health and health care programs (as defined below). The remaining 20 percent of the county's annual NTS share would be allocated to law enforcement (Sheriff Carona). The funds would first be deposited into a separate Trust Fund.
The County would be precluded from supplanting current revenues or spending levels with NTS funds (both health and law enforcement). Capital expenditures are not precluded; however, they must be consistent with the allocations provided under the measure.
The following allocations will be made annually:
19 percent -- Senior health care-related programs
20 percent -- Non-profit community clinics, including university, hospital-affiliated and mobile (van) clinics
23 percent -- Emergency and on-call physicians (to ensure emergency departments and trauma centers remain open)
12 percent -- Tobacco prevention and control, addiction programs and community mental health programs and facilities
6 percent -- Hospitals (to offset uncompensated emergency/ trauma center care)
20 percent -- Law enforcement
In a fiscal emergency wherein the county general fund would decline by 10 percent or more, supervisors may reallocate (each subsequent year) funds from the NTS to other urgent priorities.
Total Orange County (government) administrative charges may not exceed one percent of total NTS dollars.