As a nurse-midwife and psychiatric nurse practitioner, I have witnessed dire suffering when lives, families, employment, and dreams crumble due to lack of basic health care.
As the co-author of Senator Mark Hatfield's memoir, "Against the Grain," I know how much this wise Republican senior statesman accomplished for Oregon with his belief that, "You cannot build a nation on the backs of sick people." To Senator Hatfield, ensuring health care as a basic right (and an essential responsibility of good politicians) was the basis upon which to build a thriving economy and healthy state.
Representative Parrish, please reconsider Referendum 301, which jeopardizes health care for 375,000 Oregonians on Medicaid and raises premiums for 220,000 more. This legislative session, Oregon parted ways with the national movement on health care by actually expanding access to care.
The Healthcare Protections Bill was passed by a bipartisan supermajority and supported by a diverse coalition, including the Oregon Nurses Association, Oregon Medical Association, the Oregon Hospital Association, over a dozen coordinated care organizations, and major health insurers.
These stakeholders understand we cannot afford thousands of Oregonians losing nationally-lauded, Oregon Health Plan coverage. They understand basic, preventive care saves several dollars per dollar spent. It averts costly emergency care that band-aids chronic health problems for later while draining state coffers. Finally, bipartisan healthcare stakeholders understand the Healthcare Protections Bill will stabilize the private insurance market and lower premiums by roughly six percent. This six percent deduction in out-of-pocket costs would make a significant difference for many of my most vulnerable patients.
Repealing this portion of the Healthcare Protections bill — as you threaten to do — would raise premiums in the short term, and destabilize the market, driving insurers out of Oregon in the long term, raising costs for Oregonians. All this would not only devastate basic physical healthcare, but make mental health care—a true benchmark for quality of life—even more unattainable than it currently is, except for the privileged few.
As you've said, you yourself were a Medicaid beneficiary as a child. Trying to repeal the Healthcare Protections Bill puts at risk essential health care for Oregon's most vulnerable families and children. With no statewide or federal alternative in place, the immediate impact of repealing this law would be devastating for the health of Oregonians. Please, help move Oregon forward with what the majority of your fellow representatives, citizens, hospitals, coordinated care organizations, and health care organizations agree on. You may believe the Healthcare Protections Bill is not perfect, but let's work together to expand affordable care for all—not repeal it with no fall back in place for hundreds of thousands of deserving citizens counting on this for their health care.
We can't go back to a time when health care – including preventative, maternal and mental health – was only afforded to the healthy and wealthy, a precious few in today's society. I hope we all take Senator Hatfield's words to heart: we must truly invest in the health of our neighbors and state in order to build a truly thriving Oregon.
Diane Solomon is a nurse-midwife and nurse practitioner in Portland.