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Suit says health care cuts violate U.S. law

A group of legal aid attorneys filed suit in federal court Thursday, charging that state health officials violated federal law when they cut off payments earlier this month to two men who live in local care centers.

The men, William Watson and Charles Papst, are among nearly 9,000 senior citizens and disabled Oregonians whose state-paid health benefits are being eliminated because of the state's budget deficit.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, said that Watson, 59, lives in a Gresham care center and suffers from a chronic lung disease. He 'cannot survive independently of the services he receives,' the lawsuit charges.

Papst, 37, lives in an Oregon City care center. He suffers from seizures and has a mental disorder. He 'will not be able to manage É if his current level of care is terminated,' according to the suit.

The Oregon Department of Human Services eliminated state-paid health care services to about 4,200 elderly and disabled Oregonians on Feb. 1. A second round of cuts affecting another 4,800 people will go into effect April 1.

'These cuts are really tragic, but there's not a lot of legal footing' for the case, said Kevin Neely, a spokesman for the office of Oregon Attorney General Hardy Meyers, which will defend the state in court.

The suit was filed by Legal Aid Services of Oregon, Oregon Law Center, Lane County Law and Advocacy Center, and the National Senior Citizens Law Center.