State health officials expressed concern Tuesday over money that was pulled from an account that pays for uncompensated trauma care delivered in Oklahoma.
While planning out the state’s budget, policymakers moved $5 million from the state trauma care assistance revolving fund to help pay for appropriations for other agencies.
The fund, administered by the Oklahoma Health Department, helps pay physicians, hospitals and emergency medical service providers who deliver millions of dollars in uncompensated health care to Oklahomans who suffer serious and often life-threatening injuries, said Julie Cox-Kain, senior deputy commissioner of the Health Department.
In an example provided by the Health Department highlighting the first six months of 2012 hospitals, EMS providers and physicians were paid $12.3 million from the trauma fund, which covered about half of the uncompensated care they delivered.
“These are lifesaving services that hospitals and EMS providers provide to people without respect to their ability to pay or their insurance status,” Cox-Kain said. “It’s a critical system for us to support.”
The money in the trauma fund comes from a variety of sources, including tobacco tax money, driver’s license fees and motor vehicle fines.
The reason that there was enough money in the trauma fund for the state to pull $5 million relates to how the Health Department disburses the money, Cox-Kain said.
Over the past few years, the Health Department paid trauma care providers in two disbursements each year, paying each provider for six months of uncompensated trauma care services.
Once they were paid, there was usually about $6 million left in the account, Cox-Kain said.
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