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U.S. News

Washington: Goodbye to Free Vaccines

January 22, 2009

In an attempt to avoid cuts to HIV/AIDS education, family planning services, and funding for local health districts, the Legislature may slash a program that provides all children in Washington with free vaccines.

State officials are looking to close a $6 billion budget gap. Providing universal vaccine coverage to every child, regardless of family financial means, costs the state around $42 million annually. "We had to look at every place we spent money," Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said of her office's efforts to help Gov. Chris Gregoire draft a budget plan. "Our largest singular expenditure is vaccines."

Beginning July 1, Washington will no longer pay $7 million for the human papillomavirus vaccine that protects against most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. Then, starting July 1, 2010, the state will stop paying for vaccines against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenza B, mumps, measles, chickenpox and others.

Currently, state money for vaccines supplements federal funds that are earmarked to ensure low-income, Native American, and Alaska Native children have access to vaccines. Without state funds, private insurers will pick up the cost of vaccinations.

Premera Blue Cross is ready to pay for the vaccines if the spending cuts are enacted, said spokesperson Scott Forslund. But he said insurers are concerned that the move could exacerbate the trend of "cost shifting," whereby private insurers and their customers pay more to compensate for inadequate government health care spending.

The federal dollars should be enough to cover immunizations for children who qualify for Medicaid, said Selecky. What is unclear is who will pay for the vaccines for children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford health insurance.

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
Spokesman-Review (Spokane)
01.11.2009; John Stucke

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More HIV Prevention Policy News on the Western U.S.


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