June 17, 2019 / SUSANNAH LUTHI
A new Texas law signed on Friday will increase a state fund subsidizing unreimbursed trauma care by $31 million and repeal a controversial program that previously benefited hospitals.
The legislation repealed the Drivers’ Responsibility Program, under which people were hit with hefty surcharges in addition to fines for traffic violations. Drivers saw their licenses suspended or even faced jail time for outstanding fees.
The program funneled millions into an account earmarked for hospitals and emergency medical services. The 2018-19 appropriation set aside $116 million for the fund, although a Texas health department report on hospital uncompensated care recorded deep variances year-to-year.
As criminal justice reform advocates lobbied to repeal the program, hospitals and ambulance services looked for ways to keep the trauma fund replenished in any alternative model over the past six years. Ultimately, State Rep. John Zerwas authored the legislation that has replaced the old system.
Under the new law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas will raise or add various traffic violation fines across the board starting Sept. 1, and the revenue will go to the state’s trauma facility fund. The statewide traffic fine will go from $30 to $50, for example.