Arkansas is the only state in the nation without a trauma system. Money is a big reason why. As the new legislative session begins, Gov. Mike Beebe proposes an increase in the cigarette tax of 56 cents per pack to fund the trauma system which he estimates will cost $30 million in its first year.
Injury is the leading cause of death and disability for Arkansans between ages 1 to 34. Car crashes, fires and brain injuries are among the most common trauma cases in the state. Approximately 200 to 600 Arkansans die every year because they don't get the appropriate emergency care fast enough. It is estimated that over 1000 Arkansans end up with permanent disabilities due to delayed care.
The proposed tax increase is projected to raise about $87 million annually. Gov. Beebe would like to use the additional money to expand the state health insurance program for children of Arkansas' working poor. He would like to change the eligibility rate from 200 percent to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
Other health programs that would benefit include cancer research, community health centers and a proposed Fayetteville satellite campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Passing a tax increase during a shaky economy may be tough this session. Such a measure requires a three-fourths vote in both the House and Senate.
It's a good time to quit smoking.