December 15, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Susan Ward (206)786-0094 / susan@teamsoapbox.com

 

Governor’s Budget Slashes Funding for Essential Health Care Services Threatens the Viability of the Primary Care Safety Net

Seattle, WA, December 15, 2010 – The cuts-focused budget that Governor Gregoire presented today for the 2011-2013 biennium sacrificed critical health care services to address the state deficit.  It cuts over $1.4 billion in health care and human services for Washington’s working families, the elderly, children, low-income adults and people with disabilities.

The budget:

  • Eliminates the Basic Health program, resulting in 56,000 more uninsured working adults.
  • Slashes funding necessary to keep health center doors open to serve uninsured and low-income patients.  The budget cuts $172 million in state and federal funding from community health centers by changing the way they are paid for Medicaid.  It also cuts Community Health Services Grants by 50 percent, the state’s only support for uninsured primary medical and dental care through community health centers, which served more than 230,000 uninsured patients in 2009.
  • Eliminates Disability Lifeline, which provides medical and mental health services for 17,000 people.
  • Reduces “Medicaid Optional” services, by eliminating adult dental care (except for the disabled and pregnant women) and interpreter services, and reducing Maternity Support Services by 50 percent.
  • Cuts Apple Health for Kids coverage for 27,000 children.

According to Rebecca Kavoussi, Assistant Vice President of government affairs for the Community Health Network of Washington, “The Governor made choices that will literally cost people their livelihoods and even their lives.  We urge the legislature to make more humane and fiscally responsible choices, using a litmus test to prioritize cuts. Are low-income, vulnerable populations disproportionately affected? Will people become disabled? Will people lose their ability to work?  Will the state lose federal money?  Will cuts create greater expense?  Will people die? In looking at the Governor’s budget, the answer to all these questions is yes.  The Legislature can and must do better.”

Mary Looker, Chief Executive Officer of the Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers says, “This budget dismantles the health care safety net and wipes out years of progress and investments in our health care infra-structure.  It’s no exaggeration to say that the survival of our state’s most vulnerable people will be jeopardized, and working families struggling in this recession will face major setbacks. We are counting on the legislature to be far more prudent about targeting cuts.  It’s essential to avoid endangering the lives of Washington’s lowest income residents.”

In 2009, Washington Community Health Centers served over 34,000 more uninsured patients than in 2008 – a 17% increase – and those numbers continue to rise.  The Governor’s cuts to public health coverage would create at least 100,000 new uninsured people in Washington overnight, the majority of them patients at Community Health Centers, which already serve more than a quarter of all uninsured people in the state.

Community Health Network of Washington CEO Lance Hunsinger states, “While demand for our services is at record levels, health centers are being pummeled by cuts to virtually every funding stream.  The safe harbor of health care that clinics provide many communities will be compromised. We won’t be able to provide the same primary and preventive care we have in the past, and thousands more people will have to use hospital emergency rooms. These costs will be passed on to insured people in the form of higher premiums.”

The Community Health Network of Washington and the Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers are calling on the Legislature to take a more balanced approach to the budget when they begin the new legislative session in January.

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Community Health Network of Washington (CHNW)
Founded by community health centers in Washington State, Community Health Network of Washington (CHNW) is a community health center-focused delivery network, whose mission is to improve the health status of our communities through the provision of high-quality, affordable, community-based health care to underserved individuals and families.

The Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers (WACMHC)
WACMHC is a non-profit organization, formed in 1985, to advocate on behalf of the low-income, uninsured, and underserved populations of Washington State served by community health centers.  These health centers serve low income and other persons with limited access to health care.