August 21, 2004
But despite this week's approval for the new tax, to be paid by hospitals and managed care plans, thousands of working poor previously covered by the plan will lose coverage.
The new tax will allow Oregon to continue offering a scaled-down benefit package to an estimated 24,000 low-income adults who otherwise would not qualify for Medicaid. If it hadn't been approved, officials said another 7,000 Oregonians would have lost their health coverage.
But there's no room for new people in the program. And officials must drop the Health Plan's ``standard'' benefit package enrollment down to 24,000, from 56,000 adults by the end of the 2003-05 budget cycle, which ends June 30.
The tax will be levied on urban hospitals and is expected to generate $46 million during the remainder of the cycle. Each of those dollars will be matched by an additional $1.50 from the federal government.
Even though a new tax is in effect, it doesn't necessarily mean patients will see bigger bills for hospital stays.
That's because much - although not all - of the tax is being offset by increased payments from the state to participating hospitals for Health Plan patients, said Jim Edge, assistant administrator of the Oregon Medical Assistance Programs office.
With the federal matching dollars, the grand total the hospital tax will raise is about $119 million, Edge said. A separate managed care tax will collect an additional $149 million.
The state ended most general tax support for the health plan's ``standard'' population after voters rejected Measure 30 in January. That measure would have maintained a cigarette tax dedicated to the health plan and also raised a handful of other taxes.
The state has not altered the benefits or eligibility for the so-called ``Medicaid mandatory'' population. Those 300,000 Oregonians, who are disabled, blind, elderly or receiving public assistance, continue to receive benefits.