Those who serve OHP patients relieved over 101 passage

Brenda Johnson, CEO of LaClinica, breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday night as Measure 101, a tax on hospitals and insurance companies to preserve the state’s health insurance expansion, appeared to be passing by a wide margin. More than half of the patients served by the public health service are covered by the Oregon Health Plan, Johnson said.

Failure of the measure would have meant the organization would likely have required the clinic to consider layoffs and clinic closures, according to Johnson.

"I'm not sure people really understood the magnitude of the potential problems," Johnson said.

"We would've worked hard and asked our community supporters," Johnson added, saying failure would've left the healthcare provider "really, really strapped."

By Wednesday morning, the measure was passing 61.54 percent to 38.46 percent among the 1.04 million ballots counted so far. The turnout was 39.5 percent, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office. In Jackson County, the measure was passing 57.9 percent to 42.1 percent with a turnout of 42 percent, the Jackson County Clerk's Office reports.

United Way CEO Dee Anne Everson said that a more harmful consequence if the measure were to fail would be for the people served by La Clinica.

"It's the people who need those services that are affected the most," Everson said. "We can't let that happen."

As of 8:45 p.m., Everson said she was "cautiously optimistic," pointing to numbers shifting statewide from a 27-point lead at 8 p.m. to a 19-point lead within the hour.

"The numbers of shifting," Everson said. "I think it's a little premature to get too excited."

Everson said she believes the measure's passage is"crucial for Oregonians," adding that United Way backed the tax on hospitals and state insurance agencies because the measure would impact children and families.

"If this measure were to fail, over 90,000 children would not have healthcare coverage," Everson said.

More than 54 percent of children in Jackson County Schools are on free or reduced lunch, Everson said, saying she's concerned about the consequences if the measure were to fail.

"When you look at our county specifically, 25 percent of our kids are below poverty," Everson said, later adding that good healthcare is "crucial to the success of the vital community."

Johnson said that the Oregon Health Plan expansion that occurred under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act has helped people take preventative measures on their health instead of procrastinating.

"I can't imagine going back to the time when so many in our community were completely uninsured," Johnson said.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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