Health care cuts threaten Oregonians

By Katie Gauthier of Salem, Oregon. Katie is the policy and communications director for Oregonians for Health Security, a nonprofit health advocacy organization fighting for access to quality, affordable and secure health care.

At a time when our nation is dealing with high energy costs, an unstable economy, and the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina, it is more important than ever that we preserve health care and food programs for the most vulnerable Americans. Yet, proposed cuts in Congress threaten the very programs Oregon's most vulnerable depend on. Oregonians will be severely impacted by proposed cuts to health care programs, food stamps and housing.

Oregon has over a half million uninsured residents, about 100,000 are children. Two-thirds of these families are working, but cannot afford private health insurance. These numbers have been compounded with cuts to the Oregon Health Plan that forced 65,000 Oregonians to lose coverage. As people lost coverage and our rate of uninsured skyrocketed, we have seen our emergency rooms overcrowded, our rural health care infrastructure threatened and health care costs soar. Now, Congress threatens to make our situation worse, by pulling federal funds from what remains of the Oregon Health Plan. This will further add to the number of uninsured and increase health care costs for all of us.

Senator Gordon Smith has successfully advocated in the Senate for a package of cuts that are equally spread among health programs and limit the impact to beneficiaries. While it's not perfect, it is the best chance we have at avoid devastating health care cuts proposed by the House. The plan approved by the Senate contains $10 billion in budget cuts including reforms in Medicare and Medicaid that target overpayments to pharmaceutical companies, fraud and abuse by providers and increases access to health care for children.

The House plan contains drastic cuts that would impact children, seniors and people with disabilities who depend on Medicaid in Oregon. Proposals in the House would shift costs for health care to children, by for the first time ever requiring premiums and co-payments before children could obtain needed health care services, even preventative care. The House proposal would also cut almost 300,000 people from food programs that have helped Oregon reduce the number of hungry people in our state.

With Democrats united in opposition to this plan, House leaders failed Thursday to garner enough votes for passage. The severity of health care cuts are said to be one of the sticking points. Leaders expect to bring a package to the House floor next week. This delay gives Representative Walden, in particular, and others in the House have an opportunity to follow Senator Smith's leadership and oppose cuts that harm beneficiaries.

Final details of the budget reconciliation will be worked out in a conference committee. Senator Smith and all of Oregon's congressional delegation will have to remain steadfast to ensure the package proposed by the Senate is enacted, instead of any of the draconian cuts being discussed by House leaders. As Oregonians, we need to continue to tell them to stand up for us and oppose cuts that harm Oregonians, our health care system and our economy. Go to our website to hear stories of impacted individuals and send a message to your Representative.

Comments

  • Erik Sørensen (unverified)
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    I guess I am not quite convinced that Senator Smith did all he could. He did vote for the reconciliation package, didn’t he? In my opinion, a vote for, is a vote in favor of. Maybe my thinking on this issue is just too black and white

    Anyways, the fact that the House leadership has failed numerous times to gain enough votes for their package of draconian cuts demonstrates that Americans are speaking out to their Representatives and they are being heard. Republicans need to come to terms with the fact that the majority of Americans don’t want cuts to vital programs so that tax breaks can be given to the wealthiest.

    We need to continue to speak out here in Oregon, especially to Congressman Walden. With our voices loud and united, this destructive budget package can be defeated.

    Erik

    BTW: Take a second after you visit the Oregonians for Health Security website and check out www.actnow.org. Join the online march and tell Congress to get their priorities straight.

    Erik Sørensen, Oregon Coordinator People for the American Way/PFAW Foundation www.pfaw.org

  • Karl (unverified)
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    I'm with you Eric. This is not the time to be visiting another "Katrina" on the least financially secure people of our country. We need to let all those "reverse Robinhoods" and "Scrooges" in congress know that they better stop giving to the rich before they take another penny from the poor. If they know what's going on, the American people won't stand for that. They could start by recinding the tax breaks, especially the huge one they just gave the oil companies. As a matter of fact they could throw a windfall profits tax on some of the profiteering the oil companies did because of the disasters. We need to talk to our friends and neighbors and write our congressmen. Also , it's time to put to rest the myth that cutting taxes on the rich creates more jobs. When the lower and middle class get more money they spend every penny and pump it directly into the local economy.

  • Bailie (unverified)
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    Karl, You say, "When the lower and middle class get more money they spend every penny and pump it directly into the local economy."

    How do you propose "the lower and middle class get more money"? I would hope the answer is, "to work for it".

  • LT (unverified)
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    So, the working poor (full time minimum wage, multiple part time jobs, etc. ) don't deserve health care because they aren't working for it?

    Spoken like someone who has never been laid off, always had a full time job at a good salary. Read the stories about the unemployment rate, the layoffs, the people who have still not found full time work (or any work at all) a year later.

    There are those who believe "the unemployed are lazy" but others who know someone laid off ( outsourcing, corporate restructuring, etc.) through no fault of their own.

    If someone wants to run for office saying such people don't deserve government benefits because they should "work for it", go right ahead.

    Being laid off or not able to find permanent, full time work does not take away someone's right to vote.

  • Smith4Prez (unverified)
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    Senator Gordon Smith has successfully advocated in the Senate for a package of cuts that are equally spread among health programs and limit the impact to beneficiaries. While it's not perfect, it is the best chance we have at avoid devastating health care cuts proposed by the House.

    This analysis is insane. Are you already in consulation with the producer of his '08 spots?

    How much is the tax cut package going to be that the Finance Committee passes? When it is 6 times the amount of cuts to Medicaid and it goes primarily to the Gordon Smith's of the world, perhaps Oregonians will do some rethinking about Smith's "heroism." What a bloody joke.

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