Hospitals group ‘very disappointed’ in Brown’s Oregon budget

Coronavirus

'Governor proposed direct cuts to hospitals in midst of biggest public health crisis in century'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown was upfront about what was not in the next budget for Oregon.

“Let me be very clear. This budget doesn’t put enough money in schools. It doesn’t make the investments in public health we need. It’s a budget built on sacrifice and hard choices. And while the state can deliver the core services that Oregonians expect us to, it doesn’t go far enough to heal the pain of 2020 because Oregon alone can’t do it,” the governor said during her press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems said they “were very disappointed with the governor’s budget announcement today.”

Becky Hultberg said, “The governor has chosen to propose direct cuts to hospitals in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in a century.”

She noted hospitals get state funding through the Oregon Health Plan, so this proposed budget has cut hospital rates through the OHP by “at least $80 million, but we are still quantifying the overall impacts.”

Though it won’t impact people on OHP differently than anyone else, “what will happen is that hospitals which are already financially stretched thin will have less money coming in and eventually they will have to look at cutting programs or services,” Hultberg said.

There were some cuts in the budget she wasn’t surprised by.

“There are some cuts in graduate medical training which support physician training, there are some cuts to the Oregon CCOs which deliver benefits to the Oregon Health plan and there are other cuts that we are still working through.”

She also noted the organization worked to pass Measure 108, the ballot initiative that increased the tax on a pack of cigarettes and imposed tax on vaping products.

“That measure is bringing, over this biennium and the next, $400 million into the Oregon Health Plan,” she said. “To see now that we are taking potential hospital rate reductions is really a difficult pill to swallow.”

Charles Boyle, the Deputy Communication Director for Gov. Brown, told KOIN 6 News in an email the governor is committed to working with the hospitals to keep a sustainable health care system.

“However, with 150,000 Oregonians joining the Oregon Health Plan rolls since the pandemic, we can’t protect the Oregon Health Plan, cut taxes, and not pursue any cost savings in the health care system all at once,” Boyle said.

He noted the “landscape is changing rapidly — with vaccine development moving rapidly forward, some pressure will fortunately be taken off the health care system.”

Hultberg said she and the OAHHS will take her at her word.

“We will continue to work with her office to underscore the importance of stable funding for hospitals during a pandemic,” she told KOIN 6 News. “We’re going to also take our message to the legislature.”

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