As legislators continue to work to reach a budget compromise that will end the 2005 legislative session, both sides are proposing human service budgets that are inadequate, leaving far too many Oregonians behind. Current proposals would fund emergency dental care for adults on the Oregon Health Plan, but leave out preventative dental care and vision services. The current proposals also fail to restore funding for the Oregon Health Plan-Standard. Without additional resources, the program, which is now closed to new enrollment, will continue to shut out many in need. In addition, budget proposals under fund alcohol and drug treatment programs.
Last week, many Oregonians who receive services from OHP and those who had lost coverage traveled to Salem to advocate for restoration of the 10-cent tobacco tax to fund health care. They shared their experiences with OHP and the need to preserve health care for vulnerable Oregonians.
In one weekend Don Jarvi and the Aids Action Project NW collected 2700 signatures on a letter to budget writers, Senator Schrader and Representative Scott, urging them to fund vital health care services, including adult dental and vision for Oregon Health Plan recipients. They delivered the petition, with hopes of infusing some compassion into the final budget discussions.
While the session winds to a close many of the substantive policy changes to reduce health care costs languish in the House. It is not to late to make your voice heard. Take this opportunity to call your legislators at 1-800-332-2313.
Health Care Bill Held Hostage
Supporters of legislation to reduce the cost of health care were stopped cold last week by an iron-clad House Republican caucus. Legislators made motions to bring each of the bills to the floor for a vote, but were told by Speaker Pro-Tempore Richardson, "We're not here to discuss the sake of countless Oregonians who cannot afford health care."
"What is the legislature here for, if not to discuss and act on legislation to reduce health care costs for the countless Oregonians who cannot afford health care today?" asked Maribeth Healey, executive director of Oregonians for Health Security, "Thousands of Oregonians have testified in committee, sent letters, emails, postcards and made phone calls urging action to reduce the skyrocketing cost of health care. I am outraged by the Republican House members' indifference to pleas for affordable health care."
In making the motion for a vote on HB 2817, Representative Tomei argued, "We need to hold a vote on this bill today because our constituents back home have sent us to Salem to do something to control the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs and to take steps to make our health care system more accountable and transparent."
"To reduce the cost of health care we must address the top cost drivers- pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance costs," explains Healey, "Three pieces of legislation to do that have passed the Senate, but as we learned by this action, they are all being held hostage by the Republican-controlled House. Working families, businesses and taxpayers are losers in today's votes. Without action on this important legislation, we all continue paying the high price for health care."
The Weekly Dose
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of adults say Medicaid is a "very important" government program, ranking it equal to federal aid to public schools (74%), and above defense and military spending (57%). -- Kaiser Family Foundation, June 29, 2005
Oregonians for Health Security
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(503) 655-2793 (503) 655-2879 fax