By editorial board • 

There’s no sound reason for decimating Medicaid

Voters are facing something unusual Jan. 23 — a referendum challenging a $320 million health care assessment approved by the 2017 Legislature. It’s on the ballot as Measure 101, with a yes vote in support and no vote in opposition.

When petitioners succeed in forcing a referendum, it is normally, though not always, placed on a November ballot. This one was moved up to allow the 2018 Legislature, convening Feb. 1 for a statutorily limited 35-day session, time to address the massive hole rejection would carve in the state’s already implemented 2017-19 budget.

Under challenge are a 1.5 percent tax on health care insurance and a boost in the existing 5.3 percent assessment on hospital revenue to 6.0 percent. They were part of a $550 million package requiring 60 percent approval in both chambers, forcing majority Democrats to draw at Republican support in each.

The package would qualify Oregon for a $960 million federal match, thus closing an almost $1.3 billion gap in its Medicaid program. And Medicaid serves about 1 million of Oregon’s 4 million residents, including 400,000 children, while covering almost half of all Oregon births.

The measure enjoys backing from virtually every entity subject to the added cost, including McMinnville’s Willamette Valley Medical Center. The pain is eased for insurance carriers because they can pass the expense along at an average cost of $5 a month, and for hospitals because it would be catastrophic if high-cost emergency room care once again became the sole option for the indigent.

The uninsured indigent once accounted for 10 percent of ER traffic at Willamette Valley. An Oregon Medicaid expansion piggybacking on the federal Affordable Care Act served to cut that figure to 1 percent, and the facility is in no mood to forfeit a 10-fold improvement.

Measure 101 faces opposition from Republican Sal Esquivel of Medford, even though he provided the deciding yes vote in the House. A social issues conservative, he’s switched sides for fear money would be used to fund abortions or care for the undocumented.

Esquivel joined fellow House Republicans Julie Parrish and Cedric Hayden in sponsoring the referendum. At last report, however, they were trailing by 32 points in polling (2.5 to 1) and $1.7 million in fundraising (6.5 to 1).

While the yes campaign has garnered fervent advocacy and financial support from the labor movement and health care community, the no campaign has been subsisting largely on donations from longstanding tax foes, such as Stimson Lumber CEO Andrew Miller.

Parrish believes a measure that took months of hearings, haggling and compromise in the 2017 regular session, in order to achieve a pair of super-majorities, is so flawed lawmakers should start over in this year’s brief session. One opposition newspaper thinks the measure falls short by failing to spread the burden among all Oregonians, another by surreptitiously spreading the burden to “virtually all Oregonians.”

The Pamplin newspaper group made a better case when it argued approval “allows the democratic process to work,” “gives lawmakers a year to monitor the new financing package,” “avoids another divisive distraction” and “ensures that our state’s most vulnerable residents get quality health care.” We concur.

Comments

Rotwang

Taxation is theft. Measure 101 will allow a sales tax on your medical plan, since the cost of the sales tax to the medical industry will be passed on to you. Ignore the slick advertising campaign paid for with millions in special-interest money. Vote NO. Let Salem cut its own bloated habits in order to fund care for poor people.

Rotwang

Measure 101 is not about whether we should fund Medicaid, or even how much we fund Medicaid. It's about whether or not funding Medicaid by taxing other people's healthcare - our neighbors, our local small businesses, our favorite non-profits, and even our public school teacher healthcare - is the fair and equitable way to fund Medicaid, while big self-insured corporations, unions, insurance companies - and even lawmakers themselves - get an exemption from shouldering the burden of a failing Medicaid program.

I voted NO on Measure 101!

Denise

Since we’re citing sources, here’s a far more rational opinion from The Oregonian -

https://www.google.com/amp/s/articles.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/12/vote_no_on_measure_101s_inequi.amp

I find The Oregonian, as usual, makes a far more logical, thorough argument than anything that comes out of Yamhill County.

Vote NO on this unjust, unequal tax.

Hospitals are making money hand over fist, their CEO’s are millionaires, they are spending mountains of cash to support 101 - yet they are struggling?

Please.

Denise

And yes, let’s give more money to Salem and Portland. I mean their track record with public dollars is positively stellar.

Care Oregon? I-5 bridge? Solar projects? The PERS debacle?

Yes NewsRegister, let’s give the State another $320 million dollar blank check.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Denise

“Cover Oregon”

Rotwang

It seems that those who support it the most, and have dumped millions into the ad campaign, are themselves exempt from the sales tax.

Don Dix

Adding to Denise's list of Oregon government waste -- OWIN, DMV computer upgrade, BETC, Oracle lawsuit, Sylvia Hayes, etc.

Remember, when those who would normally (by profession) reject this proposal become ardent supporters, there is definitely something amiss -- vote no on this tax!

Mudstump

I'd rather pay more to have people covered than pay even more to have people uncovered. ER care is not health care and we pay more when people seek help in the the most expensive place available to them. Voted Yes.

Denise

Emergency rooms are filled with folks on Medicaid.

There is absolutely zero financial disincentive for them (people getting free Medicaid) to choose the most expensive option when the bill is footed by taxpayers.

It’s the private insurance that typically has a higher deductible and other financial barriers I place to make it less appealing to not use your PCP.

Rotwang

Mudstump, why don't you simply donate more to the state government until your feelings of guilt go away?

Mudstump

Rotwang - "Guilt?" Where did you get the nutty idea that I am feeling guilty about something?

Why would you rather pay for the most expensive form of health care?

Rotwang

Because you seem to have a jones to pay more for stuff. I have no idea what the other half of your message means.

Rotwang

"Decimate" means to cut by a tenth. For medicaid, it would be a good start.

Mudstump

Rotwang - You seem to be the one that wants to pay more for stuff.

Rotwang

How do you figure that?

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