Lawmakers in one state, faced with competing plans to compensate parents for caring for their disabled children, settled on a narrow approach. Around one thousand children with the most severe medical and behavioral health requirements would be cared for by their parents with financial compensation under Senate Bill 91.
State funding totaling $3 million would be allocated under the law over the next two years, less than the cost of other proposals that would have covered more kids. Advocates and caregiver parents have been lobbying for this legislation for almost two years.
Medicaid in Oregon has been paying for the care of children with severe intellectual and developmental problems throughout the epidemic, but as of May 11th, these payments will cease. Over 700 children with the greatest needs are eligible for the program, and more than 300 participate. Parents hoped for a plan with even broader eligibility.
But Corvallis’s Sara Gelser Blouin, head of the committee on human services, pushed for the reduced version due to budget constraints. She received unanimous approval from the committee’s five members: Republican Suzanne Weber of Tillamook and Democrat Art Robinson of Cave Junction, Democrat Floyd Prozanski of Springfield, and Democrat James Manning Jr. of Eugene.
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services must Approve the program for it to receive Medicaid funding. Around two-thirds of Oregon’s Medicaid costs are covered by the federal government, with the state picking up the tab for the remainder.
The measure has been sent to the Joint Ways and Means Committee and several other initiatives seeking financial support. Senate President Bob Wagner of Lake Oswego predicts that many participants will drop out before the race ends.
Democratic goals such as improving public defense, literacy, mental health, and reproductive care will not be covered by the $325 million budget writers have to authorize. The plan by Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp of Bend, Senate Bill 646, was shot down by the committee due to budgetary concerns.
Some 10,000 children with disabilities, rather than only those with the greatest needs, would have been eligible under the law, which had the backing of parents and campaigners. The idea never made it out to the committee.
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Before the vote, some members who ultimately voted in favor of the measure said they did so because they believed that parliamentary budget writers would not authorize more costly alternatives.
“I will reluctantly support (the bill) because I do believe it’s the best chance we have to put additional revenue into the program as compared to wishing and hoping,” Prozanski said. Some committee members expressed hope that the program, should it be adopted, might be expanded in the future as income projections improved.
“I would be heartbroken if we walked away and got absolutely nothing,” Manning said. “We can come back and go at it again for additional (money),” Manning said.
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