During the 2017 legislative session in early summer, lawmakers in Oregon approved a tax on hospitals and other health care providers. This tax is used to fund health care for low-income Oregonians, and it’s matched by federal dollars.
Recently, Oregon Rep. Julie Parrish, a Republican from West Linn, along with two other Republicans, Cedric Hayden of Roseburg and Sal Esquivel of Medford, launched a successful petition drive to repeal the new health care tax.
They argued that the cost of new taxes would only shift to consumers and that lawmakers need to find other ways to cut costs. They collected 85,000 signatures, which is enough to force a vote in January.
Approximately one million Oregonians, including 400,000 children, are insured by Medicaid, according to Oregon’s Division of Financial Regulation. If Measure 101 fails, it could then put many at risk, including members of Eugene’s community and their families.
In January, the measure hits the ballot. But what does it really mean? Here are some things that students should know about Measure 101.
1. It concerns the $550 million tax bill that was implemented last June.
In June of 2017, a tax was put into place to maintain coverage for those who are insured under the Oregon Health Plan.
It helps fund the State Reinsurance Program, which helps lower premiums for people who buy their own health care coverage.
“People who make a little bit too much money for the Oregon Health Plan [can] buy health care coverage on the Health Insurance Exchange [on healthcare.gov],” said Patty Wentz, spokeswoman for the ‘Yes for Healthcare’ campaign.
The funding package included a 1.5 percent tax on health insurance companies, health care providers and hospitals. Their tax assessments are based on their revenues.
This was put together after the Health Authority Budget had a budget shortfall during the summer.
2. It could affect Oregonians’ health care services.
350,000 state residents are kept on the Oregon Health Plan, because of the funding package implemented in June. According to the ‘Yes for Healthcare’ campaign website, “the plan ensures that 95% of Oregonians maintain access to health care.”
If the plan is removed, that number could lower dramatically.
“Adults and children who are covered today may lose their coverage,” Wentz said.
Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan can also lose some of the services they are provided with today.
Around 210,000 people could see reductions in their premiums if the plan is denied.
3. Over 60 organizations are backing the bill.
Organizations have teamed up in support of the ‘Yes for Healthcare’ campaign.
These organizations include CareOregon, Legacy Health and the Oregon Education Association.
Wentz said that the list is continuing to grow.
4. A “yes” votes to keep the funding for the Oregon Health Plan; a “no” votes to remove it.
While the language concerning the bill may be difficult to understand, a “yes” is in support of the bill, a “no” is in support of cutting the funding.
While it is unusual to see a ballot vote in January, it’s because Democrats in the Oregon Legislature argue that if the tax is overturned, they will need to act quickly to make sure that people who receive health care from this tax aren’t left without insurance.
“If it passes, everything stays the same,” Wentz said. “If it fails, then the legislature is going to have to cut health care.”