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10 March 2010

Georgia Healthcare Workers Say Don't Tax People Who Care For The Sick

Tuesday, a bipartisan group of legislators --including state Sen. Nan Orrock and state Rep. Ron Stephens-- joined healthcare workers from across Georgia to oppose the so-called sick tax proposed by Gov. Perdue. The sick tax, embedded in House Bill 307, would levy a 1.6% fee on Georgia hospitals.

Opponents of the legislation say if passed into law, HB307 could result in hospital and healthcare layoffs across the state; cause additional physicians to opt out of the Medicaid program, further compromising access to care for those most vulnerable; cause a reduction in hospital services and, in some cases, cause hospitals to close their doors altogether.

Instead, they say, Georgia should raise the cigarette tax by $1.

Writes state Rep. Ron Stephens:

Right now Georgia’s 37 cents a pack cigarette tax generates about $237 million a year, but we spend $537 million a year treating smoking-related illnesses in Medicaid patients alone. That means Georgia’s taxpayers are subsidizing the medical costs for the smokers among us to the tune of $300 million a year. Per household, Georgians are contributing $550 a year to cover the smoking-related medical costs for the state’s Medicaid patients. Raising the cigarette tax by a buck a pack would generate at least $350 million and put the burden where it needs to be — on the smokers themselves.

Stephens, Ron (2010-3-3). Don’t subsidize costly habit at the expense of services we need. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved on 2010-3-10.

"We believe we should tax something that makes people sick, not those of us who are caring for the sick," said Julie Windom, VP of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals.