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[Los Angeles Times / TNS illustration]

BALLOT MEASURE 101: Yes or no?

This week, registered voters across Oregon are receiving a ballot for the Jan. 23 special election with a single, very important measure on it. Ballot Measure 101 protects health care coverage for one in four Oregonians, including 400,000 children.

As a physician, and particularly as a pediatrician, passage of this measure is incredibly important to me. If Measure 101 isn’t passed, state funding for health care in Oregon will be cut by up to $320 million, resulting in the possible loss of up to $5 billion in federal matching funds that protect Oregon’s most vulnerable citizens: working families, children, people with disabilities and seniors.

Measure 101 asks voters to support the health care plan the Legislature developed with health care experts and advocates throughout Oregon, businesses and unions, hospitals, doctors and nurses, education associations, AARP and more.

The official ballot title reads:

Measure 101

“Approves temporary assessments to fund health care for low-income individuals and families, and to stabilize health insurance premiums. Temporary assessments on insurance companies, some hospitals and other providers of insurance or health care coverage. Insurers may not increase rates on health insurance premiums by more than 1.5 percent as a result of these assessments.”

I’ve taken the time to read the ballot language and study up on the importance of this measure. It’s an assessment placed on hospitals, Coordinated Care Organizations and other health insurers. And all of those being assessed agree that paying the assessment is the best way to provide basic health care to vulnerable Oregonians. It’s a strategy that 49 other states are already using to fund their Medicaid programs.

Measure 101 is written to ensure funds go directly into the Health Services Fund to be used solely for funding health care programs, providing care for those who need it most. At the end of the day, this funding saves us all. Without it, more Oregonians will be unable to afford to go to the doctor’s office and will go without care or be forced to use the emergency room, raising the cost of everyone’s health care. This is why health care groups such as the Oregon Medical Association, the Oregon Nurses Association, and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems support a yes vote on Measure 101.

For opponents who argue that passage of Ballot Measure 101 will negatively affect schools and school funding, this simply is not true. To ensure the health, well-being and school success of our kids, the Oregon Education Association, Oregon School Boards Association, Oregon School Based Health Alliance, Oregon PTA, Stand for Children, Head Start Association of Oregon, and dozens of other education groups across the state support a yes on Measure 101.

If Measure 101 fails, the Legislature will have difficult choices to make in February. Making up the budget shortfall could require cuts to education, public safety, senior services, child welfare or other services that historically have been affected when state funding cuts are made.

As chairman of the board of Jefferson Regional Health Alliance, a collaborative of leaders across the health care sector in Jackson and Josephine Counties, I’m keenly aware of how important passage of Measure 101 is to the health of our local community. Failure to pass this measure is predicted to hit rural communities the hardest. Jackson and Josephine counties are two of the highest in the state in terms of the number of people receiving health care through Medicaid/OHP. We stand to lose the most.

When our friends, family, coworkers and neighbors can afford and access health care, we all benefit. Please join me in voting yes on Measure 101 in January to protect health care for families and kids here in Southern Oregon and around our state. They’re counting on us.

— Lee Murdoch, M.D., is a retired pediatrician and founder of Southern Oregon Pediatrics. He currently serves as chairman of the Jefferson Regional Health Alliance board, a member of the Jackson County Public Health Advisory Board and as a board member of the Family Nurturing Center.

 

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