Bill Whitaker

Union County Progressives/Democrats

J an. 23 is a red-letter day for healthcare in Oregon. On January 23 your vote is due for Ballot Measure 101. I’m voting yes for Healthcare. Here’s why. I hope you will join me in voting yes. Measure 101 protects healthcare coverage for one in four Oregonians, including 400,000 kids. It holds down healthcare costs for all of us. By assessing a fee on insurance companies, hospitals and managed care organizations it makes basic healthcare affordable and accessible to every Oregonian.

By voting yes, we’ll take an important step toward reasonable healthcare cost and access. We’ll protect the one in four Oregonians who count on Medicaid through the Oregon Health Plan. We’ll have the funding necessary to see that every child in Oregon has a doctor and receives the care needed to stay healthy. Measure 101 will stabilize healthcare costs and lower premiums an average of $300 a year for Oregonians who buy their own insurance. The current state budget came together after months of negotiations between healthcare stakeholders and lawmakers. It is the best policy that does the most good for the most people. It is the best policy for ratepayers, taxpayers, and everyone who counts on Medicaid for coverage.

If Measure 101 doesn’t pass, state funding for Medicaid will be cut by between $210 and $320 million, with a potential additional $5 billion lost in federal matching funds. Seniors in nursing care, people with disabilities and 400,000 Oregon children would face the prospect of reduced healthcare benefits. In some cases their coverage will be lost altogether. If Measure 101 doesn’t pass, our legislators will need to cut the Oregon budget mid-cycle.

One option would be cutting coverage for the 350,000 Oregonians who joined Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Other options include cutting things like prescription drug coverage or cutting budgets for education, public safety, child welfare and other essential services. Measure 101 impacts rural Oregonians. In some of our rural counties, more than a third of families rely on Medicaid. Without Measure 101, Medicaid funding would be slashed, impacting family health and local economies. What’s more, in early 2017, 20 rural Oregon counties were at risk of losing coverage options on the individual insurance market. Thanks to Measure 101 funding that’s dedicated to stabilizing insurance premiums, every Oregon county now has at least one available insurance option.

Measure 101 includes assessments (or fees) on hospitals, insurance companies and other healthcare providers. These assessments raise between $210 and $320 million dollars, which are wholly dedicated to healthcare. They cannot be used by the legislature for any other purpose. The federal government matches what we raise here in Oregon, bringing billions of dollars of healthcare funding that helps us continue funding Medicaid at its current level.

Forty-nine other states use assessments like Measure 101 to access federal matching for healthcare. These assessments are a federally approved and essential path to providing healthcare coverage to Oregon’s most vulnerable populations. Vote yes for healthcare. Vote yes on Measure 101.