If you’re a low-income resident in Washington state and not feeling so great, you’d be wise to pack your bags for Oregon.
Just as Washington prepares to pull the plug on health care for more than 40 percent of the 100,000 working poor who are covered by the state-subsidized Basic Health Plan, Oregon announces that it’s pushing to expand coverage to an additional 80,000 uninsured children and 35,000 low-income adults. (See this great piece from Oregon Public Broadcasting on Washington care, and this one from the Oregonian).
The two states’ economies are both in the tank, so how’s Oregon able to aid the ailing in this time of great need?
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Lawmakers to the south voted to tax hospitals and insurers to pay for care. From the Oregonian:
The bill would levy a 1 percent tax on the “gross amount of premiums earned” by most insurers. That money would be used to expand coverage to 80,000 uninsured children, bringing the share of all children insured in Oregon to 95 percent…
The hospital tax would be levied on the net revenue of the state’s 26 largest hospitals at a floating rate not to exceed 5.5 percent. The tax would function more like a loan from hospitals as the bill requires the state to increase Medicaid payments to hospitals enough to offset the tax…
The tax money would leverage enough federal money to add about 35,000 adults living in poverty to 24,000 adults now covered by one portion of the Oregon Health Plan.
Up north, Washington legislators considered and declined to act on a bill to raise the state sales tax by three-tenths of a penny to help patch up health care cuts.
Washington Representative Eileen Cody explained:
“It’s the whole you can’t get blood out of a turnip and if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. And we just don’t have it at this time. It’s not like we’re sitting on it somewhere and have decided to be cruel to the citizens of the state and deny them health care.”
The cuts are going to hurt, said Anita Monoian, chief executive of Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, a clinic near downtown Yakima that bills on a sliding scale based on income, in a recent story from the Yakima Herald:
“Right now it feels like almost 35 years of building a safety net for our community’s fragile and most vulnerable residents is being dismantled with a stroke of the pen.”
So will the feds step in to save the day? President Barack Obama is urging lawmakers to take action, warning Congress this week, “If we don’t get it done this year, we’re not going to get it done.”
If you want to weigh in on the nation’s health care crisis, come to a rally in Seattle on Saturday, May 30. The “Health Care for All in 2009” march will be starting at 12:30 p.m. at Pratt Park, ending by 3:30 p.m. at Westlake Park.
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Boy with cast photo courtesy of Flickr userzarzosounder the Creative Commons license.