A few Republicans hope a confusing Referendum de-funds an Oregon healthcare bill already signed into law. In January voters will be asked to vote YES to keep the funding for low-income individuals and families, or NO to leave these people with no choice but to visit emergency rooms they can’t pay for.
That legislation, signed into law earlier this year, ensures that all Oregonians, including those on Medicaid, have access to healthcare services. It is important to note that the bill was agreed upon by a significant group of stakeholders, including the entities that will be paying the assessments. It is supported by hundreds of organizations, including AAUW of OR, AARP, the Oregon Nurses Association, Providence Health, hospitals in the metro and rural areas, and many more.
Note that a Referendum is different from an Initiative. An Initiative gives direct legislative powers to voters to enact new laws, change existing laws or amending the Constitution. A Referendum allows voters to reject legislation adopted by the Oregon Legislature. Referendum 101 tracks the language of a healthcare funding bill that was passed by a 3/5ths super-majority in both Oregon Houses, but two Republican legislators who opposed the bill decided to start a Referendum process.
The bill, signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, provides for temporary [until July, 2019] assessments to be made on insurance companies, some hospitals, the Public Employees’ Benefit Board, and managed care organizations. The money from these assessments provides funding for health care for low-income individuals and families. The rates are different for metro and rural hospitals.
Ballot Measure 101, coming up for a vote January 20, allows voters to put their stamp of approval on what the state legislature has already passed. A NO vote can’t undo the legislation, but can take away the funding for it.
If Measure 101 is defeated by a majority of NO votes, there will be a reduction of $210-$320 million in state revenue, with an additional reduction of $630-$960 million, or more in federal Medicaid matching funds. The total revenue reduction to the 2017-19 state budget may be $840 million-$1.3 billion or more.
The Referendum clearly states that insurance companies may not increase rates on health insurance premiums by more than 1.5 percent as a result of the assessments. More importantly, the monies generated from the assessments go into a Health Services Fund, not the general fund, but if 101 fails, general fund monies will have to be redirected to provide essential health services. This would mean less money for an already strapped education budget and other public services as well. It’s also likely insurance premiums would rise above the 1.5%. limit in the Referendum because someone will have to pay the emergency room bills low income people cannot afford to pay.
What can you do to preserve healthcare for Oregon’s most vulnerable people?
- Vote YES for Healthcare on Referendum 101 in January, 2018 Special Election.
- This is critically important!
- The first step is to vote and vote YES!
- The second step is to ensure your community knows about and supports 101 by volunteering to knock on doors, participate in a phone bank or write letters to your local newspaper.
- Sponsor informational forums and volunteer to distribute flyers explaining the Referendum
For more information: Here’s a link to the AARP State Director’s letter on favor of Referendum 101 that was published in the Register Guard: http://registerguard.com/rg/news/36243681-76/aarp-nurses–local-hospitals-agree-vote-yes-on-measure-101.html.csp
What if Referendum 101 is defeated? For even more details, take a look at: http://www.kgw.com/news/politics/measure-101-what-you-need-to-know-before-you-vote/493795942 .
What are the opponents of Referendum 101 saying about why it should be defeated? There is a link to the Oregonian’s “no” endorsement, http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/12/vote_no_on_measure_101s_inequi.html
Note that even the Oregonian admitted that it is unclear how sufficient funds would be obtained to pay for Medicaid if the Referendum loses. Groan! The rationale for the Oregonian’s opinion is that a no vote is “the only way to hold the Legislature and governor accountable for their failure to budget responsibly and fairly fund this program in the first place.” But this is what Referendum seeks to do, and it was passed by a super majority in the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
Here is a newspaper article relating to a Southern Oregon forum.