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Originally published Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Health care cuts will hit the poor the hardest

The cuts in health care will hit poor adults the hardest. The Senate budget proposes canceling coverage in Basic Health Plan, a deeply subsidized state insurance program for the working poor, for 45,000 people in July.

Seattle Times health reporter

The cuts in health care would hit poor adults the hardest.

The state Senate's budget proposal would cancel coverage in Basic Health Plan, a deeply subsidized state insurance program for the working poor, for 45,000 people in July. That would leave 60,000 slots, all for people earning no more than the federal poverty level.

That would be the first time that Basic Health has bumped members off its rolls; until now, the program has capped enrollment through attrition or by closing new enrollments.

The budget plan also has "a significant gap in funding" for state employees' benefits plans, said Dave Wasser, a spokesman for the state Health Care Authority. The exact size of the gap is unclear, but Wasser said the state likely would be forced to cut benefits or increase workers' share of premiums.

The Senate budget would retain about 80 percent of the General Assistance-Unemployable program, which Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed budget called for eliminating. However, slots for more than 3,000 people would be eliminated from the program, which provides health insurance and cash to people facing serious obstacles to finding jobs.

The state would reduce reimbursement rates to hospitals and pediatricians, pay less for brand-name drugs and trim premiums to Medicaid managed-care companies, among other cuts.

In addition, the budget would end state coverage for three vaccines — human papilloma virus, rotavirus and meningococcal — and would stop paying for vaccines for all except low-income children.

Kyung Song: 206-464-2423 or ksong@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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