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Update from the Economic Justice Working Group

Following the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal, the House (SHB 1086) has submitted a proposed 2011 Supplemental Operation Budgets to address revenue shortfalls projected to occur before the end of the current biennium. SHB 1086 was passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee on January 19, 2011.?

The impacts of the governor’s budget proposals on low-income and disabled state residents’ health coverage are described below. The House proposal retains the Basic Health Plan until the end of April, 2011, although legislators have not yet identified how to fund the continued program. At the national level, Senator Cantwell is exploring additional avenues—beyond the federal match of state contributions—that Congress might be able to use to cover projected Basic Health Plan shortfalls.

The House proposal also funds Disability Lifeline at the reduced levels created by budget cuts implemented in December. In addition, the House budget fully funds Apple Health for Kids and does not reduce Medicaid reimbursement rates as proposed by the governor so that Community Health Clinics do not experience additional budgetary reductions.

Governor’s 2011 Supplemental Operating Budget

What follows is a summary of how the Governor’s 2011 Supplemental Operations Budget impacts the health care programs designed to support the health needs of the poorest of our neighbors.

The most frustrating aspect of many of these proposals is they will result in the loss of several hundred million dollars in matching federal subsidies because the legislature or the governor believe the state does not have the resources to continue paying its share of the program costs.

All told, according to the Governor’s 2011 Supplemental Operating Budget, about 100,000 state residents would lose health care benefits currently provided through the Basic Health Plan (55,000 loss), Disability Lifeline (16,500 loss), and Apple Health for Kids (27,000 loss). This is in addition to the 75,000 state residents who have already lost benefits as a result of Basic Health Plan cuts implemented after 2001 that are currently in place.

Another 250,000 state residents who currently use Community Health Services and 700,000 who use Community Health Clinics (including HealthPoint) would potentially lose access to those clinics as a result of the proposed reductions impacting Community Health Services (budget reduced by at least 50 percent) and the proposed 1/3 budget reduction for Community Health Clinics. (Some of the 100,000 referenced in the above paragraph would be included in the 950,000 referenced in this paragraph.)

It is particularly important that individual programs not be eliminated, as it will be extremely difficult to reinstate them after the economy recovers.  It is better that all programs be retained – even if their funding is cut back – rather than totally eliminating some programs in order to maintain others at full funding.

We need to continue sending a strong message to the legislature reinforcing the importance of these programs to our state, and to our neighbors with fewer financial resources, while we also continue to look for new revenue sources or other alternatives to cutting these programs.

Steven Aldrich, Legislative Advocate

Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy

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