House GOP offers affordable-responsible ideas to Healthy Kids Plan

Below is a press release from House Republicans 1-26-07:

Democrats Reject Alternatives on Party-Line Vote

SALEM– Republicans on the House Health Care Committee today proposed amendments to lower the future costs of the program while expanding coverage for low income children. The majority Democrats on the committee rejected the amendments on a party-line vote, thus maintaining the Governor’s proposal and the program’s projected costs.

The Republican amendments would have made the program more affordable by reserving the program for low-income families. The amendments also would have assured the benefits were provided only to legal residents.

The Governor’s plan provides state subsidized benefits to children in families up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level, or $72,000 a year for a family of four. The plan is to be funded by an increase in the tobacco tax, raising the cigarette tax by 84 cents per pack””making it one of the highest in the nation at $2.02 per pack.

House Republicans believe passing such important legislation should not hinge on raising an unrelated tax, and proposed separating the tobacco tax increase issue from the children’s health benefits issue. They are separate issues and should not be considered in the same bill.

“Sustainability has been a concern from day one. Authorizing a program from a funding source that will have over a $100 million shortfall in the next budget is simply not good government,” said Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) Vice Chair of the Committee, “If we are serious about providing health care for children we need to be serious about funding that program for the long term.”

“Only 30 percent of the funding from the tobacco tax increase goes towards actual medical care. Over 12 percent is dedicated to administering the program and the balance towards other programs. This is a significant part of our concern and one that the public should be aware of,” said Rep. Linda Flores (R-Clackamas)

Rep. Ron Maurer (R-Grants Pass) expressed concerns over the funding mechanism for this program: “If we want to rise to our once proud station as the nation’s leader in health care reform, we should not place our children’s health on the altar of nicotine addiction.”

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CONTACT: Nick Smith, January 26, 2007, 503-986-1351