Basic Health cuts would be devastating for thousands



Posted on December 11, 2009 at 6:29 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

SEATTLE - Doreen Simeona looks at the face of her one-month-old baby James and wonders why she feels so depressed.

"The last couple of weeks, I just been feeling kind of down," 28-year-old Simeona confided to a post-partum specialist at the Neighborcare Health clinic in Wallingford.

The specialist works through those feelings with her, but soon mother's like Simeona living without health insurance may be on their own.

"The knowledge they gave me was so helpful I don't even know what I would do if it weren't here," she said.

Under Governor Christine Gregoire's proposed budget, released on Wednesday, Washington's $340 million Basic Health Program would be eliminated. The plan covers those making less than $21,600 per year, or $36,000 for a family of three.

"The community impact is huge from an economic standpoint as well as a moral standpoint," said Mark Secord, Executive Director of Neighborcare Health.

Secord says the cuts would come on top of a 13 percent cut from last year's budget.

"The significant reductions are just going to be devastating," he said.

Charles Alvarez has been coming to the Neighborcare Health clinic since he was seven. He says if it weren't for this place, he'd likely have to resort to the emergency room for dental problems.

"Probably missing teeth, a lot of cavities. My teeth are grateful for coming here," he said.

Simeona hopes one day she'll be able to afford health insurance, but she wonders, what about the others?

"If the funding was cut it just wouldn't be good for maybe a whole little Seattle generation or something, you know what I mean?" she said.

Governor Gregoire plan would not only cut the state's $340 million Basic Health Program, but also prescription drug assistance and the General Assistance for the Unemployable program. Gregoire says she plans to submit an alternative budget next month which will restore some of the proposed cuts in the current proposal. That budget will likely call for tax increases. The state is currently suffering from a $2.6 billion shortfall.