Jeff Heatherington, president and CEO of FamilyCare Health, which manages Medicaid patients in the Portland area, raised alarms about the future of the program.

“Overall the cuts in the Oregon Health Authority budget and the Department of Human Services budget represent a huge walk away from all the health care goals of the Oregon Health Plan,” Heatherington said in an email.

“The cuts to early childhood programs, community mental health and addictions, and dental services are just plain draconian. … If the current budget proposal is enacted, we will be setting ourselves up for much higher health care costs in the future.”

The budget outlook is actually slightly improved from the original forecast at the end of 2016. The target reduction lists don’t take into account the improved revenue numbers — $185 million of additional resources for the biennium.

The Co-Chairs, Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Nancy Nathanson, are waiting for the next forecast, which will be released in May and is traditionally used as the basis for the next budget.

The Co-Chairs refer to the cuts as a “discussion document,” a starting point from which subcommittees can begin their work as they prepare agency budgets for the 2017-19 biennium. Public hearings are ongoing.

“To be clear, the Target Reduction Lists were not recommendations; they were our best effort to prioritize services and programs within what money we know we will have,” Nathanson said in an email.

Such deep cuts to Medicaid would “absolutely move the state backward,” she said.

“If we no longer cover this expansion population, those hard-working adults would lose health coverage and Oregon would lose billions in federal funding — both of which would cause negative ripple effects throughout the state economy,” Nathanson said.

She added that she hopes to find a “different path forward,” so that the state can avoid the worst cuts and stabilize the budget.

Andy Davidson, who heads the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said Devlin and Nathanson “tackled an extraordinary set of circumstances and crafted a budget framework that demonstrates the enormity of the fiscal challenges our state is facing.

“Today’s update to their preliminary budget continues to illustrate the Hobson’s choice before our policy makers. And it continues to make the case for consideration of new revenue sources to ease the impacts of the programmatic cuts outlined in their budget.”

A Better Oregon, which unsuccessfully worked to pass a corporate tax referendum last year, released a statement decrying the cuts to Medicaid, education and in-home care for seniors:

“The proposed cuts released this evening by the Co-Chairs would be deep and devastating to Oregonians at every age in every corner of the state, and they are a direct result of our dead-last corporate taxes. The stakes have never been higher or more sobering,” the group said.

Elizabeth covers health care for the Portland Business Journal. Sign up for her free daily email to keep tabs on the rapidly changing industry.

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Alarms raised over 'draconian' cuts to Oregon's Medicaid program – Portland Business Journal