TMA Letter on HB 299 Driver Responsibility Program

TMA Letter: House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee

Testimony on House Bill 299
March 22, 2011

On behalf of the Texas Medical Association, we thank you for the opportunity to provide input on House Bill 299, which repeals the Driver Responsibility Program.  The preservation of the Driver Responsibility Program is absolutely essential to the provision of trauma care and emergency services across the state, including in rural and frontier areas of Texas.   

A strong trauma system in Texas is vital to the overall health of the state.  Trauma is the leading cause of death for Texans under 44 years of age.  The Driver Responsibility Program was established in 2003 (HB 3588) to support existing trauma centers and offer incentives for other hospitals to become trauma designated.  The program penalizes habitual bad-drivers, including drunk drivers with increased fines. The money from these fines go into an account that helps offset uncompensated care in trauma centers, which is more than $220 million per year.  While some have made the argument this program unfairly penalizes some people, the fact is bad drivers contribute significantly to the number of trauma visits to the hospital.  

The program not only helps offset uncompensated care, it also provides a financial incentive for more hospitals to earn or maintain their trauma center designation.  While many of the state’s larger cities have Level I or Level II trauma centers that serve the city’s population, many rural areas do not have any designated trauma centers.  This program has encouraged many smaller and rural hospitals to achieve Level III or Level IV trauma designation.  Since the program began, an additional 74 Texas hospitals have become designated trauma centers.  These additional trauma centers ensure patients have access to trauma care across the state.  

In conclusion, we strongly urge the preservation of the Driver Responsibility Program.  The program is far too valuable and effective to abolish completely.  Since the program’s inception, approximately $720 million in revenue was raised for the state.  During this time of budgetary crisis, it would be ill advised to eliminate a program that actually produces revenue for the state.  The state must focus on how to preserve trauma funding, which benefits all Texans, rather than repealing a program that produces positive outcomes for the people of Texas, local hospitals, and the state.

82nd Texas Legislature Testimonies