The Washington State Legislature is proposing budget cuts that will devastate the health care system. These cuts are too deep to heal.

The House budget violates all the agreements made last year on the Hospital Safety Net Assessment, and changes the assessment from a fee to a tax on hospitals and their patients.

The result is a $250 million cut to hospital Medicaid rates. These cuts mean hospitals will be paid significantly less than the cost of caring for Medicaid patients. Hospitals are being penalized for bringing this idea forward rather than suing the state and creating even more pressure on the state budget.

The House budget also cuts $75 million in payments for emergency room visits. While we agree with the idea of trying to reduce unnecessary use of the emergency room, many of the conditions on the state’s list of “non-emergency” visits are life-threatening emergencies for infants and children.

Ultimately, the burden of these cuts will fall on poor children, seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income workers. The costs will also fall on middle-class workers who have private pay insurance as hospitals are forced to shift the cost of state underpayments to them.

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