Health care tax passes

Oregonians roundly approved temporary taxes to fund health care for low-income individuals and families in a ballot initiative election Tuesday night.

Measure 101, which approves actions in the Legislature placing taxes on Oregon hospitals and health insurers to help pay for Medicaid, passed 61-39 percent statewide in preliminary results.

Hood River County voters favored the measure by an even wider margin, with the measure passing 69-31 percent. Officials counted about 6,000 ballots out of 14,000 eligible voters here, according to Secretary of State unofficial data accessed Friday.

The measure got a warmer reception in Hood River than any other Oregon county except Multnomah, where the initiative won by 80 percent.

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Jessica Adamson

Measure 101 was the only item on the ballot in the election. Turnout in Hood River County was just shy of 44 percent, roughly four percent higher than the statewide average.

The measure creates a 0.7 percent tax on some hospitals and a 1.5 percent tax on the gross health insurance premiums and on care organizations. The nonpartisan voter pamphlet said if the measure failed, the state might lose another $630 million to $960 million in federal Medicaid matching funds that flow to poor patients across the state.

About 1 million Oregonians — a quarter of the population — receive health care coverage from Medicaid.

Oregon health care officials, including some in the Gorge, applauded the measure’s passage.

David Edwards, CEO of One Community Health, said Thursday the results are positive, namely in the sense that people covered by Medicaid won’t decrease.

“If it had not passed, our community would have lost something … it allows us to maintain what we have,” Edwards said.

Medicaid, he said, is “absolutely critical” to patients, including through One Community Health. The provider has about 12,000 Medicaid members in Hood River and Wasco Counties.

One Community Health has clinics in Hood River and The Dalles, as well a health center at Hood River Valley High School.

Edwards said Measure 101 was not, however, the most concerning legislative matter facing Oregon’s children recently.

“(The) biggest bullet we avoided was CHIP,” Edwards said.

The federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers 9 million children nationwide, was at risk of losing funding until Congress approved a temporary extension Jan. 22.

Jessica Adamson, Providence Health and Services advocacy and government affairs director, said Providence was part of a coalition of 175 groups statewide that backed Measure 101’s passage.

Adamson said, “It’s a group of folks that have come together who may not always agree, but that have stood united saying, ‘we are going to protect healthcare for Oregonians.’”

She maintained that the measure will allow Medicaid recipients to stay on the program, and will keep many patients from the emergency room and its steep costs.

The proposal was not unanimously popular, however, and drew some criticism.

The Associated Press reported that Oregon Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn/Tualatin) and several colleagues were angered by portions of the bill that exempt unions and large, self-insured corporations like Nike from Medicaid taxes, but not people who buy insurance on health care exchanges.

Kenneth Ebi of Hood River wrote a Letter to the Editor stating, “There are already enough taxes created by the Democrat-controlled Oregon legislature. If you doubt me, then prepare for a shock when you buy a new car, register your vehicle, or buy a new bike worth more than $200.”

Edwards said of Hood River County’s almost 70-percent voter approval of the measure, “I think it speaks to the level of engagement in Hood River.”

Ben McCarty, Eagle Newspapers Digital Media director, and Gillian Flaccus of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story has been updated from the print version to correct the number of CHIP patients nationwide, which is 9 million.



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