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Medicaid Update: OHS Allies Meeting with Senator Smith's Staff

Recent reports indicate that budget negotiators are considering "splitting the difference" between House and Senate versions regarding cuts to entitlement programs that would require $43 billion in cuts, including $12 billion to Medicaid alone.
This level of cuts to Medicaid is substantially higher than even the President's budget proposal of $7.6 billion to that program.

Some reports claim Senator Gordon Smith may be moving away from his initial "no cuts" position. He was quoted in a recent Congress Daily newsletter as saying, "You can have a reconciliation number, but it needs to be small. And it needs to be addressed in reforms that have bipartisan support" (04/12/05).

That was erroneously reported said health care policy staffer Rebecca Thomas when she met with OHS Allies on Friday. A delegation of a dozen senior, labor and consumer groups encouraged Senator Smith to continue to stand up for Oregonians. The delegation delivered a letter signed by a broad group of organizations, thanking the Senator for standing up and encouraging him to continue to oppose cuts. Oregon Action delivered a book with the stories of 50 Oregonians who's lives depend on Medicaid.

Ms. Thomas told the group no deal on Medicaid cuts has been struck, yet. She said Senator Smith is going to do the best that he could for Oregon. Thomas said Smith's commitment to the Oregon Health Plan goes back to way before he was in the US Senate.

A conference committee report and cuts could be announced anytime. Please take one more opportunity to urge Senator Smith to continue opposing devastating cuts to Medicaid, by clicking here --  http://www.healthsecurityaction.com/campaign/keepprotectingmedicaid -- to send him a fax, today


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Health Care Happenings
This Week!

Monday - Hearing on SB 502 (Fair Hospital Pricing) & 504 (Access to Hospital Services) in Senate Health Policy Committee

Tuesday - Press Conference on Medicaid in Eugene, 11 AM Lane County Mental Health Outpatient Clinic

Wednesday - Possible Hearing on SB 503 (Wise Hospital Investments) in Senate Health Policy Committee

Thursday - Possible Hearing on SB 329 (Expanding Rx Pool) in Senate Human Services Committee

Saturday - Health Care Canvass, 10 AM OHS Office BBQ and Game Night to follow

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The Weekly Dose

19% of Oregonians taking out payday loans did so to pay medical bills.
KGW News
April 21, 2005

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Oregonians for Health Security
9813 SE Hwy 212 Clackamas, OR 97015
(503) 655-2793 (503) 655-2879 fax
 http://www.oregoniansforhealthsecurity.org
Medicaid cuts will leave the poor adrift 26.Apr.2005 20:47

Stephanie Simon, Los Angeles Times

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www.registerguard.com | The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon

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April 25, 2005


SIKESTON, Mo. - Hundreds of thousands of poor people across the nation will lose their state-subsidized health insurance in the coming months as legislators scramble to hold down the enormous - and ever-escalating - cost of Medicaid.

Here in impoverished southeast Missouri, nurses at a family health clinic stash away drug samples for patients they know won't be able to afford their prescriptions after their coverage is eliminated this summer. Doctors try to comfort waitresses, sales clerks and others who soon will lose coverage for medical, dental and mental health care.

``I don't know what cure to offer them,'' Dr. Hameed Khaja said helplessly.

Lawmakers say they feel for people who will lose coverage. But they say also that they have no alternative.

Prenatal checkups, nursing home care and other health services for the poor and disabled account for more than 25 percent of total spending in many states. Medicaid is often a state's single biggest budget item, more expensive even than K-12 education. And the price of services, especially prescription drugs and skilled nursing for the elderly, continues to soar.

The federal government helps pay for Medicaid, but in the coming fiscal year, the federal contribution will drop by more than $1 billion due to changes in the cost-share formula. President Bush has warned of far deeper cuts to come; he aims to reduce federal spending on Medicaid by as much as $40 billion over the next decade.

Current proposed Medicaid cuts in Congress would cost Oregon at least $159 million in 2006-2010. More than 380,000 Oregonians use Medicaid.

``It's frightening a lot of governors,'' said Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

Every state has frozen or is trying to cut the fees they pay doctors to care for Medicaid patients. More than a dozen states are looking for ways to cut the number of people covered - or reduce their benefits. Several are proposing restructuring the entire program.

In Tennessee, Gov. Phil Bredesen plans to end coverage for more than 320,000 adults, many of them elderly.

Minnesota might stop insuring 27,000 college students and adults without children.

Washington state might require senior citizens to pay $3 for each prescription that Medicaid used to provide for free.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have proposed privatizing Medicaid. Bush wants to give recipients vouchers so they can shop around for their own insurance plan. Sanford wants to set up Medicaid bank accounts; the state would deposit a fixed sum of money for each patient to spend medical expenses.

In Missouri, where nearly one in five residents is enrolled in Medicaid, Gov. Matt Blunt is poised to sign the most drastic overhaul of all: A bill that will eliminate the program entirely in three years.

Blunt expects that by then, the state will have established an alternative mechanism for helping the poorest of the poor. But the legislation on his desk does not insist on it. It states only that Missouri Medicaid will cease on June 30, 2008.

In the meantime, the bill severely cuts the existing program, ending coverage for an estimated 65,000 to 100,000 people.

A single mother of two who earns $3,800 a year will be considered too wealthy to qualify for Missouri Medicaid under the legislation, which is due to take effect this summer. The woman's children will be eligible for free health care. But if she gets a better job and starts earning $23,000 a year, they, too, will be bumped off Medicaid - unless she's willing to pay as much as 5 percent of her income in monthly premiums. The state expects many parents at that income level would be unable or unwilling to pay the premiums, forcing about 24,000 children off the Medicaid rolls.

Children who remain on Medicaid will continue to receive full benefits, but most adults will get a bare-bones package. The program no longer will pay for their dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, wheelchairs, hospital beds or even bedpans.

The Republican lawmakers who have been leading the Medicaid reform drive say the cuts are not just about balancing this year's budget. They're about steering Medicaid back to its original purpose: To serve as a safety net for citizens who are too young, too old, or too ill to help themselves. Turning Medicaid into a welfare program for poor but able-bodied adults risks jacking up the costs so high that the entire system could go bust - stranding those who most desperately need the state's help.

The cost of Missouri Medicaid has doubled in the past six years, to $5 billion. It eats up more than 30 percent of the state budget. More than 1 million people are enrolled.

``Government is not here to do everything for everybody,'' said state Rep. Jodi Stefanick, a Republican representing suburban St. Louis. ``We have to draw the line somewhere.''

do these guys have any reality of the numbers? 26.Apr.2005 22:21

shaker

"Lawmakers say they feel for people who will lose coverage. But they say also that they have no alternative. "
They can spend $400 billion a year on 'defense,' $300 billion now, on the Iraq war, and doomed to more than double according to something I'd read about Pentagon estimates...So, $40 billion over the next decade is just 1% of the defense budget over that same time, 12.3% of what we've spent in Iraq. No alternative? Bullshit. They don't need you to 'feel' for them in that manner.

sorry 26.Apr.2005 22:37

shaker

13.3% of what we've spent in Iraq...

Health Care Canvass 26.Apr.2005 23:00

OHS

Refreshments provided.

Call 503-655-2793 to RSVP

Date: Saturday, April 30,2005
Time: 10:00 AM

Help End the Health Care Crisis
by spending a few hours encouraging
voters in key districts to
contact their legislators about the
Affordable Health Care Package.

Location:
Oregonians For Health Security,
9813 SE Hwy 212, Clackamas

Join the Health Care Walk
Encouraging Voters to Talk

Other options 27.Apr.2005 00:19

Lynn Porter

There are alternatives to devastating cuts to social safety net programs like Medicaid (Oregon Health Plan). At both the state and federal level the tax burden has been shifted, over the years, from business and the rich to the poor and middle class. We should shift it back. In Oregon we could raise money for the Oregon Health Plan, which provides medical care to poor people, but cutting out business tax breaks, which one state legislator said the legislature "has been handing out like candy."

More specifically, here is a April 12 letter to The Oregonian from Chris Coughlin, Executive director, Our Oregon Coalition:

The Oregonian is right -- most legislative candidates "ran on schools" ("You promised: schools first," April 7), but that doesn't mean we have to accept the Catch-22 implied in your editorial of pitting school funding against funding for vital services for seniors, children and vulnerable Oregonians.

Although our legislators may have "run on schools," they didn't run on cutting reimbursement rates for the foster parents of the most troubled children.

Here's a radical alternative: Raise some revenue.

* Raise $195 million by adopting a corporate minimum tax ranging from $500 to $3,000 depending on corporate size.

* Raise $60 million by eliminating the corporate kicker, an unexpected windfall for largely out-of-state corporations.

* Raise $29 million by cutting the tax break for income earned overseas.

These common-sense measures would ensure that corporations are paying their fair share and would help the Legislature escape the Catch-22.


tobacco settlement money 27.Apr.2005 13:56

--

You might also want to ask your state legislator how much of Oregon's 2004-2007 $80 million has accrued to the General Fund thus far. Maybe we can get some of it this time instead of having it all funneled to OHSU by our oh-so-sorry-I-have-to-do this legislators (think: Kate Brown).

Tobacco Settlement by State:  http://www.tcsg.org/tobacco/settlement/totalfunds.htm

Where our tobacco settlement money has gone thus far:  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2002/05/11072.shtml

Also: Tomorrow, Thurs Apr 28th @ 2p 27.Apr.2005 15:11

p=roxy

The City Council will be considering specifics on the OHSU Tram. If any of you have time, beat it down there and set up your soapbox re: the big OHSU Oregon Opportunity scandal, of which the Tram in a neighbor-hood-destroying part.

An excerpt from a friend:

"
...a couple of things on the Portland City Council Agenda tomarrow regarding OHSU and the Tram... Often these meetings are quick reports about their plans, then an opportunity for testimony on each item.

Last time we learned that it would be cheaper to drive people back and forth all day in limosines, than it would be to build the TRAM... and that was before the price increased threefold (3X). Also a great time point out OHSU's lack of Public Process on use of Public Funds... and the theft of the Tobacco settlement.
"

PORTLAND CITY COUNCIL AGENDA
City Hall - 1221 SW Fourth Avenue

THURSDAY, 2:00 PM, APRIL 28, 2005

398 TIME CERTAIN: 2:00 PM - Accept City Engineer status report on progress of the neighborhood improvement projects identified in the Portland Aerial Tram Final Recommendations and Report and direct the Portland Office of Transportation to proceed with the implementation of specific neighborhood improvement projects (Resolution introduced by Mayor Potter)

*399 Amend contract with Portland Aerial Transportation, Inc. to provide construction administration, peer review and project management services and to accept the assignment of contract with agps architecture for the Portland Aerial Tram project (Ordinance introduced by Mayor Potter; amend Contract No. 35021)

*400 Authorize contract with Kiewit Pacific Company to construct the Portland Aerial Tram project (Ordinance introduced by Mayor Potter)

*401 Authorize contract with Doppelmayr CTEC, Inc. to fabricate, deliver and install aerial tram equipment for the Portland Aerial Tram project (Ordinance introduced by Mayor Potter)

Sen. Smith battles Medicaid reductions 27.Apr.2005 23:07

Tim Christie

The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon
April 27, 2005
 http://www.registerguard.com/news/2005/04/27/d1.cr.medicaid.0427.html


As Congress and the Bush administration wrangle over proposed cuts to Medicaid, U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith has become a key player so far in blocking cuts to the federal-state program that pays for health care for poor and disabled people.

It was Smith, an Oregon Republican, who last month helped strip $14 billion in Medicaid cuts from a Senate bill, and instead establish a commission of experts to study ways to reform Medicaid. In recent days, he's been negotiating with the Bush administration on what that commission would look like.

At a Tuesday news conference in Eugene, a group of civic leaders, union representatives and patient advocates thanked Smith for his work so far, and urged him to hold the line against further cuts.

In Oregon and every other state, the stakes are high: Oregon stands to lose $213 million in Medicaid funding under current proposals, or about 7 percent of the $3 billion spent annually on Medicaid in the state.

Of the 561,000 Oregonians who received Medicaid benefits in 2000, 42 percent, or 238,000, were children.

Patients covered by Medicaid represent about 16 percent of all patients discharged from Oregon hospitals in 2003, according to state statistics.

At McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, nearly one in four patients is covered by Medicaid, with charges of $8.7 million. At Sacred Heart Medical Center, the percentage of Medicaid patients is lower - 16 percent - but their hospital charges were $55 million.

"Devastating health care cuts" will result in Oregon unless Smith continues to stand up to the Bush administration, said Maribeth Healey, executive director of Oregonians for Health Security, a patient advocacy group.

The Bush administration had proposed cutting $20 billion from Medicaid over five years.

Members of the House balked at that idea, and in the Senate, Smith and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., wrote legislation to block the cuts and establish a Medicaid commission.

"Sen. Smith felt you should study Medicaid to see where savings could be made and how it could be improved rather than imposing a random number," said his spokesman, Chris Matthews.

Since then, Smith has been negotiating with Michael Leavitt, the Health and Human Services secretary, as well as leading Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, on a Medicaid compromise, Matthews said.

The makeup of the commission is one of the issues at stake. Smith would like to see it be either bipartisan or nonpartisan, Matthews said.

"He's doing everything he can to work out a compromise," he said.

Local patient advocates, civil leaders and health administrators called on Smith to stand firm against Medicaid cuts.

Pat Farr, executive director of FOOD for Lane County, said he was concerned about cuts to the federal food stamps program because that would cause people to rely more on his agency. And if people have to spend more money on food, then they have less to spend on medicine and health care, he said.

Bob Dritz, administrator of White Bird, said demand for services at the Eugene free clinics has increased because of cuts to the Oregon Health Plan, the state Medicaid program.

"We're entirely swamped by people seeking health care," he said. "If Medicare is cut back, those holes in the dike we've been filling will become canyons."