Assessing the need and options available for trauma physician funding in Texas

Cameron McDonald Krier, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Efforts have been made to provide supplemental funding to emergency departments to offset the costs of uncompensated medical care. But a problem exists within the trauma system in Texas that has largely been overlooked by the state. This project will focus on the lack of funding available to physicians and on-call specialists who contract with hospitals to provide emergency care. A lack of funding and reimbursement for emergency care is directly influencing the number of medical specialists willing to provide emergency treatment in hospitals on a contractual basis. A shortage of emergency physicians has an impact on the public health of all Texans who may need trauma care in a hospital. Specifically, a shortage of emergency physicians can lead to a complete denial of specialty emergency health care, a delay in patient treatment, and increased ambulance diversions. Quality and access barriers to emergency services undoubtedly threaten the stability of the trauma care system in Texas and the health status of its citizens. In 2003, Texas took a significant step towards addressing the issue of uncompensated care provided by the trauma system and passed House Bill 3588, creating the Trauma Facilities and Emergency Medical Services Fund (“the Trauma Fund”). However, the primary shortfall to this legislation is that the Trauma Fund is only available to emergency medical service providers and hospitals. The Trauma Fund does little to help offset the cost incurred by contracting physicians and on-call specialists who provide emergency services to the uninsured. This paper addresses how funding shortages for emergency department physicians negatively impact the trauma care system in Texas and the policy options available to create physician funding to offset the cost of uncompensated trauma care. Ultimately this paper concludes that although creating a new funding stream similar to the actions taken in other states would be a dramatic step towards addressing the problem, the political process in Texas may slow implementation of this option. Consequently, modifying existing legislation, although the weaker of the options, may be more attractive to those looking for immediate action.

Subject Area

Health care

Recommended Citation

Krier, Cameron McDonald, "Assessing the need and options available for trauma physician funding in Texas" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1445107.