December 6, 2004
On December 1 Governor Kulongoski presented his recommended budget for the 2005-07 biennium. In determining his priorities the Governor declared six Oregon principles, one of which is to have the basic health, food and shelter needs of Oregon's most vulnerable met.
With the state facing a $1 billion deficit the Governor is in a tough position. He proposed continuing OHP coverage for most individual in OHP-plus, but cut dental and vision coverage for adults. The Governor did not put any general funds into OHP-Standard, leaving the program entirely supported by providers and federal matching funds. This means the program would continue to operate with a cap of 24,000. The 25,000 individuals that must be cut before July would not receive coverage, nor is there funding to provide health care to the 50,000 who have already lost coverage. The Governor also proposed reducing prescription drug costs by further managing the prescription usage of OHP enrollees.
On a positive note, Kulongoski added funding for school based health clinics in 5 additional counties.
Kulongoski also expressed opposition to reinstating the 10-cent cigarette tax which could reduce some of the health care cuts. "We would like to see the governor show more leadership on revenue in a time of sacrifice. Those who are receiving tax breaks should shoulder their fair share of the sacrifice," said SEIU 503 Executive Director Leslie Frane. "And we're concerned that this budget will mean cuts in services and very tough bargaining for hard working public employees." Kulongoski has said he plans to increase health care cost shifting by forcing state employees to pay more for their health care coverage.
While we recognize the Governor is in a tough spot, we do not believe this budget meets his principle of protecting the basic health care needs of vulnerable Oregonians, nor does it help to contain skyrocketing health care costs. The Governor and legislature must work to develop common sense solutions that reduce the cost of health care and increase access.