September 17, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

 

State Budget Cuts Mean Hundreds of Thousands of People to Lose Critical Health Care Services


Seattle, WA, September 16, 2010 – On the heels of a revised Washington State revenue forecast that identified a $520 million shortfall for the current budget through June 2011, the Governor’s office has announced across-the-board cuts on all state agencies of 6.3 percent. The impacts on health care funding are considerable, with $290 million to be cut from two major health care agencies: Health Care Authority and the Department of Social and Health Services.

Cuts of this magnitude make it virtually certain that hundreds of thousands of low-income Washingtonians will lose access to critical of health care services, including some who will lose their insurance coverage altogether. Given the size of this across-the-board cut, we expect agencies to cut the same programs they’ve proposed cutting during previous budget cutting exercises, including:

  • 120,000 people losing adult dental care,
  • 20,000 people cut from chemical dependency, mental health, and medical services with the elimination of Disability Lifeline (formerly GA-U) and ADATSA programs,
  • Tens of thousands of children could lose Apple Health care coverage,
  • 80,000 people losing hearing and vision services,
  • Over 50,000 women with high risk pregnancies losing maternity support services,
  • 20,000 people losing physical, occupational and speech therapy,
  • 14,000 people losing podiatry services,
  • 2,600 people losing hospice care, and
  • 71,000 people losing access to interpreter services

The state will also lose millions of dollars in federal matching funds with the elimination of these programs.

According to Mary Looker, Chief Executive Officer of the Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers, “It makes no sense to cut cost-saving programs at a time when they’re needed the most. The current recession has increased demand for these services among working families, the growing number of uninsured, and vulnerable low-income populations. We cannot afford to cut these cost-effective programs—many of which are matched by federal funds—that keep our children and communities healthy.”

Cassie Sauer, Vice President of Communications for the Washington State Hospital Association, stated, “These cuts will be devastating to hospitals all across the state. Hospitals in every community are already struggling to deal with the impact of more than $1 billion in cuts to public health care programs over the past two years.   We know that many of the people losing services will delay treatment, get sicker, and turn to already crowded hospital emergency rooms for help. This is a terrible and expensive way to provide health care to our state’s residents. It is not a sustainable approach to health care for our state.”
 
The Community Health Network of Washington, the Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers, and the Washington State Hospital Association are calling on the Governor and the Legislature to repair the damage these cuts will create when they begin the next legislative session in January.

States Community Health Network of Washington CEO Lance Hunsinger, “The Governor and Legislature must review these across-the-board cuts and remedy them with more targeted cuts to preserve critical services. It is their duty to create a budget that matches our state’s priorities and values. These cuts will only succeed in shifting costs elsewhere in the system and depriving our neighbors of the basic health care services they need. The cuts made today clearly do not reflect where we as a state want to go.”

Initiatives on the November ballot have the potential to compound the state’s budget crisis. If passed, five initiatives (1053, 1082, 1100, 1105, and 1107) would take more than $1.2 billion dollars out of our communities, further threatening the health care safety net and eliminating more programs.

Rebecca Kavoussi, Assistant Vice President of Government Affairs for the Community Health Network of Washington, stated, “This election is a test of our values as Washingtonians. We have an opportunity with our November ballots to prevent further damage to our health care infrastructure. We will work hard to defeat the special interest initiatives that would drain the remaining state funding to provide health care to working families and the most vulnerable in Washington.”

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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-focuseddelivery 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.

The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA)
The Washington State Hospital Association represents all of Washington’s 98 community hospitals. The association takes a major leadership role in issues that affect delivery, quality, accessibility, affordability and continuity of health care. It works to improve the health status of the residents of Washington State.