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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Cuts 'abandon' some of state's neediest

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Cuts 'abandon' some of state's neediest

Trying to make sense of all the changes coming down from new policies can be very confusing, Percy said. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Trying to make sense of all the changes coming down from new policies can be very confusing, Percy said. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

Betty Percy doesn't plan to let the state abandon her and leave her destitute without a protest.

And she doesn't think anyone else should either.

Percy feels abandoned as a result of cuts to the state Department of Human Services because of budget shortfalls.

She hopes to meet with others who, like her, have had their personal budgets decimated by elimination of her Oregon Health Plan prescription drug benefits.

Percy, 64, lives on her Social Security check of $580 per month. Since Feb. 1, she is responsible for paying the costs of her medication, which total $556.01 per month, leaving her with just $23.99 to pay all other expenses.

The medications help her cope with the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. She also suffers with asthma. Because of her breathing difficulties, much of her time is spent in a wheelchair.

Her vision has been damaged by a torn and dislocated retina, which she attributes to her long-term use of oxygen. The cost of her monthly oxygen supply, which she estimates at between $500 and $600 per month, is covered by Medicare.

Percy also has lost the Medicaid-paid in-home assistance previously provided through the state Department of Human Services. A caregiver helped her with the more difficult housekeeping tasks she can no longer do herself, such as scrubbing the tub, changing the sheets of her bed and cleaning her floors.

"It's very humiliating to me to admit that, but it's a fact," she said.

Her state-provided caregiver also was available to do shopping, banking and other errands when Percy was not able to go out because of the weather or health problems.

Percy is among the 100,000 people in the state who lost prescription-drug benefits and the 6,419 who lost the Medicaid-paid in-home assistance Feb. 1, according to the Department of Human Services. More cuts are scheduled for April 1.

Percy wants to help others as well as herself in finding a solution to their problems.

"I really think that we as a community need to make our voices heard and try to change this around," she said. "I want to talk to some people who are in the same circumstances."

Percy has distributed fliers asking anyone who has lost prescription coverage through the Oregon Health Plan to call her. Her number is 523-7151.

"We need to talk about forming a council to protest and a possible meeting with legislators," the fliers state.

Flanked by quadruple exclamation points, the fliers proclaim: "It is time to fight back. Nobody else is going to do it for us."

Percy, who is single, retired seven years ago and moved to Baker City from Coos Bay-North Bend where she worked as a state-employed caregiver herself. Over the years raising five children as a single parent, she worked at jobs ranging from a department store clerk to convenience store manager and mining company cook.

She moved to Baker City because she has relatives in the community. She acknowledges that her situation probably is better than what others might be facing because she has family nearby she can turn to if needed.

And her rent at the 20-apartment complex on Eldon Street where she has lived for the past five years is based on her income. It will be adjusted to help her cope with her increased prescription costs.

Percy also will be applying for free and reduced-price medications through a program she learned of from her DHS caseworker

That's another reason she wants to meet with others facing similar budget struggles.

"What I've found out maybe would help other people and maybe what they know would help me," she said. "We need to get together and share some of these ideas and offer each other a little moral support."

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