Human Services looks to cut insurance
A revised budget request after Measure 30's defeat proposes to drop coverage for about 50,000 on the Oregon Health Plan
SALEM -- About 50,000 low-income workers and other adults would lose their health insurance this summer with a plan the state Department of Human Services proposed Friday.
The cuts, anticipated since voters rejected Measure 30 last month, are detailed in a budget request that the Legislative Emergency Board will consider in April.
But other threatened health care services, such as prescription drug benefits, mental health care, and alcohol and drug addiction treatment, will continue for about 300,000 children, pregnant women and people with disabilities enrolled in Oregon Health Plan.
With voters' defeat of the Legislature's $800 million tax increase in February, Human Services faces cuts of about $207 million, with about $180 million coming from the health plan.
Gary Weeks, the agency's director, said the cuts are not as drastic as originally feared. Savings within the health plan and in other parts of the sprawling human services budget could reduce the health plan cut to about $57 million, he said.
Eliminating services for adults would take care of most of the shortfall.
The agency's plan closely matches priorities outlined by Gov. Ted Kulongoski after the defeat of Measure 30, Weeks said.
"He was trying to focus on keeping a health plan that was sustainable and affordable, and at the same time addressed the highest needs," Weeks said.
The agency also proposes to cut $9 million from a program to supply drugs and other services to the medically needy. But Weeks said drug coverage would continue for AIDS and organ transplant patients.
The plan would preserve mental health and substance abuse services for families under the Oregon Children's Plan, and medical coverage for children and pregnant women with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line, which is $15,670 for a family of three.
Long-term Medicare services that were cut last year for about 1,200 senior citizens and people with disabilities would be restored if the federal government approves, he said.
The bulk of the health care budget savings came from people who dropped out or never enrolled in the health plan, Weeks said.
Restoring services to the working poor might be possible if the federal government approves new hospital taxes adopted by the 2003 Legislature. The taxes were designed to increase the federal government's Medicaid matching money, but federal officials are taking a close look at such methods used by states.
The agency also proposes to use general fund savings to replace two money sources lost with the defeat of Measure 30: $24 million in cigarette tax revenue and $3.8 million in lottery revenue for a gambling treatment program.
The agency will present the plan April 8-9 to the Legislative Emergency Board, which handles budget matters between sessions.
James Mayer: 503-294-4109; firstname.lastname@example.org