|Board officers||Diane Appleyard|
Robert Kincaid, MD
George Smith, MD
AccessEscambia is a non-profit 501(c)4 organization that was established in 2003 to implement the recommendations made by the Escambia County Health Care Task Force on October 22, 2003. The Task Force had been established in 2001 to consider the problems caused by the number of residents in Escambia County without health insurance, and to make recommendations for providing health care to this population. It is also the name of the political committee that has promoted ballot initiatives to fulfill these recommendations.
The three primary recommendations AccessEscambia was charged with implementing were:
- coordinate the care provided to the uninsured who enter the health care system through the emergency rooms or clinics;
- establish a low cost insurance plan based on Health Flex legislation that exempted providers from many of the state-mandated coverages; and
- to establish a system of primary health care delivery that would be funded by a half-cent sales tax increase.
Since its inception in 2003, AccessEscambia has secured $1.5 million in grant funding and implemented a coordinated care program in June 2007.
Half-cent health care surtax
In 2004, AccessEscambia sought voter approval for a half-cent increase in the sales tax on the November 2 presidential ballot, but the effort failed by a margin of 14,000 votes. However, the number of uninsured continued to grow, from approximately 54,000 people (one in six residents) in 2004 to 66,000 (or one of every five residents) by 2007.
In February of 2007, AccessEscambia's board of directors approved an effort to place the measure on another special referendum ballot. An ordinance was approved by the Escambia County Commission on March 26, 2007, granting a June 26, 2007 ballot referendum on the condition that AccessEscambia would pay the estimated $200,000 for the cost of the election. The political committee received more than $150,000 in contributions from Baptist Health Care, Sacred Heart Health System and West Florida Healthcare, expended on promotion and advertisements in a variety of media.
The surtax was defeated in the June 26 election, 22,121 to 11,705.
If passed, the program would have levied an additional half-cent tax on the first $5,000 of all sales except groceries and medication for ten years, from 2008 through 2018, at which point it would have required voter renewal. The taxes would have been used to provide primary health care for up to 30,000 low-income, working residents in Escambia County.