The 98-year-old League of Women Voters of the United States has advocated since the early 1990s our position on increasing access to health insurance for U.S. residents. Our aim is ultimately for national health insurance funded and shared by all taxpayers. As a result, we support Oregon’s Revised Statute 414.018, which states: “It is the intention of the Legislative Assembly to achieve the goals of universal access to an adequate level of high quality health care at an affordable cost.”
Where does Ballot Measure 101 fit into these worthy social goals? It upholds them. Oregon voters need to understand the issues in this special election and vote yes to keep Oregon moving forward, maintaining past gains and providing health care for the common good. A no vote turns back the clock on health care in Oregon.
The 2017 state Legislature faced a funding challenge, a $934-million shortfall in money needed to maintain the health care coverage expansions provided by the Affordable Care Act. Failure to raise that money would have meant loss of coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oregon residents and put Oregon on the road to becoming a sicker state at higher costs. Remarkably, elected officials in both parties, staffs, and health care stakeholders — led by the hospitals — came together to create the required funding package: House Bill 2391. This package represents shared sacrifice across the health care sector — both in cost containment and new revenue — to successfully maintain both benefits and access to health care for previously covered Oregonians. Additionally, 20 percent of the assessment creates a two-year market stability (reinsurance) program to keep insurance premiums lower in the individual insurance market, estimated to save up to 6.5 percent on private premiums.
A yes vote on Measure 101 is extremely important because Medicaid covers one out of four Oregonians, including 400,000 children. Dollars raised and allocated to Medicaid by our state are matched by the federal government (from 3-to-1 up to 9-to-1 depending on the population receiving care). This will likely generate a total of $1.2 billion for services that pay hospitals, providers and Coordinated Care Organizations to help their patients: a truly good investment for Oregon’s people and health care industries. A yes vote on Measure 101 is a vote to maintain our past gains in keeping Oregonians healthy and move us forward on the same track.
The supporters of "no" claim this is a tax on health care and will cause insurance rates to rise. The opposite is true because the nearly $1 billion in federal matching funds will be lost without a yes vote, as well as the reinsurance program in 2020. Consequently, insurance rates will rise to cover increased costs of bad debt and unmet need. The "no" supporters have no Plan B to deal with any of this.
What is true is that a no vote will create chaos for the next legislative session. As District 3 Sen. Alan DeBoer explained at this League’s December 14 forum on Measure 101, legislators will have three choices: 1) eliminate health care coverage for vulnerable Oregonians, 2) reduce budgets for other vital services like education or law enforcement to find funds, or 3) raise taxes.
The League of Women Voters of Rogue Valley, like the LWV of Oregon and LWV of the United States, is a nonpartisan political organization. We do not support or oppose candidates, but we do study and take positions on ballot measures and public policy issues such as Ballot Measure 101. It is on the basis of our position that health care access is essential for all that we encourage voters to vote yes on Measure 101. We also believe government works best when citizen voters are involved and understand the issues that affect our society. Ballot Measure 101 is an example of voters determining the outcome of public policy for themselves and their state.
Be sure to return your ballot before Jan. 23. Remember, if you plan to mail your ballot, that it must be received by Jan. 23 to be counted. Thank you.
— Jackie Clary is president of the 75-member League of Women Voters of Rogue Valley, covering Jackson and Josephine counties. Bill Walsh is the health care coordinator for LWVRV.