Possible Oregon Budget Cuts Could Limit Access to Antiretroviral Drugs
If Oregon voters on Feb. 3 approve a referendum that would overturn an $800 million tax package that the Legislature passed last summer, the state's "already-strained" Medicaid program would lose $154 million and would have to limit access to antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS, the AP/Longview Daily News reports. The Oregon Health Plan was "once held up as a model" for increasing health care access to low-wage workers, but large budget deficits could "spell the demise" of the program, according to the AP/Daily News. The program receives approximately $1.50 in federal funds for every $1 spent on health programs; therefore, the total cost to the program if the tax increase is overturned would be $385 million, according to the AP/Daily News. Supporters of the budget cuts say that the cuts will make Oregon government "more efficient" and that private charities and families can provide better care to poor or disabled individuals. In 2002, about 65,000 people in Oregon -- some of whom had lost their state drug benefits after a round of cuts -- accessed free drugs through programs run by pharmaceutical companies, which are expecting to see an increase in applications if the the tax increase fails to pass. "These people can get the help they need without a strong Medicaid system in place, but only to fill the gap," Dianne Danowski-Smith, a spokesperson for the Oregon chapter of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said (Kramer, AP/Longview Daily News, 12/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.