Commentary: Health care hurt by budget cuts

This editorial appeared in The Olympian.

It's the worst-case scenario. To help balance the current state budget, health officials are cutting 7,700 slots in the Basic Health Plan, the taxpayer-supported plan that provides the poor with medical insurance. The elimination might well be a precursor of things to come as state budget writers are forced to fill a $4.6 billion anticipated shortfall in the 2009-11 budget.

At the same time the state is cutting the number of people on the Basic Health Plan, Sea Mar Community Health Centers officials announced that they will not be able to expand to a second South Sound clinic as planned. Sea Mar serves the uninsured and those on medical plans accepted by few South Sound physicians.

What are the uninsured and under-insured supposed to do?

Some will simply go without medical care — which will further compromise their health.

Countless others will show up at hospital emergency rooms, where they know they will be treated regardless of their ability to pay.

Through October of this year, Providence St. Peter Hospital on Olympia's east side had already provided almost $16 million in charity care. About half was to serve the uninsured, with the other half credited to uncompensated care for Medicaid clients.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Olympian.