ATLANTA — Spending as much as $100 million to create a network of specialized trauma-care hospitals would not only pay for itself but also enhance the state financially, according to a recent analysis by the Medical Association of Georgia.

The report, prepared by a team of physicians, predicts the state would receive an annual 18 percent return — or profit of sorts — on its investment in enhanced emergency care, significantly more than savings accounts and mutual funds are paying now.

"It is vital to view such spending as an investment with substantial longterm returns rather than as a pure expense," the authors wrote. "The longterm economic benefits of effectively restoring the younger population to productivity are clear; by regaining years that potentially would have been lost, these individuals subsequently make great societal contributions and provide the state with a worthwhile return on its initial investment."

The authors made their calculations by assuming a trauma-care network would lower the rate of accidental deaths by 14 percent, which is the difference in Georgia’s current rate compared to states that already have a trauma network.

Then the authors added the number of people disabled by accidents. Next, they used tax data to estimate the average annual wages of those working-age victims would not be dead or injured if a network were available to treat them.

Legislative leaders have tried in recent sessions of the General Assembly to pass a way to fund a trauma-care network. Their ideas have included raising fees on car tags and cell phones to generate about $80 million annually for the added doctors, insurance and operating rooms needed to equip additional hospitals to employ sophisticated techniques for treating accident victims.

So far, no steady funding mechanism has passed both the House and Senate, although a one-time $58 million appropriation did pass.

Sen. Preston Smith, R-Rome, said during a forum this fall on trauma care hosted by Georgia State University that a funding mechanism would be difficult to pass in the 2009 session as well.

"On most of the examples given to you today on the screen, there were two words beside each of the bullets, and those words were ?ax increase’ and that’s going to be a very difficult sell regardless of the merits of the argument for which you’re making the case," he said. "It is very difficult to turn back to the taxpayers and say, ?his is an important need and we want you to bear more of the burden to provide [for] that need.’"

Marshall Guest, spokesman for House Speaker Glenn Richardson, said Friday that funding trauma care remains a top priority and that Richardson would continue to seek a source of steady revenue for it.

Calhoun Times