Poll reveals voters' views on health tax, other state policies
Most Oregonians oppose a proposed $600 million tax on health insurance policy premiums to fund the state's Medicaid program, according to a survey by icitizen, a nonpartisan online polling tool.
Those results don't surprise Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, who spearheaded a petition to put the tax, passed by lawmakers earlier this year, up to a public vote. The petitioners had to gather nearly 59,000 signatures to place the referral on the ballot for a January special election, and Oct. 5 they submitted about 84,000 signatures for final verification from state elections officials.
"We have not done any polling so I have nothing to compare it to, but I would say it is consistent with feedback we have received from folks who signed the petition," said Parrish, one of three Republican lawmakers hoping to refer parts of the law — which raises a variety of revenue to help the state pay for the Oregon Health Plan, the state's version of Medicaid.
About 58 percent of 645 respondents surveyed online by icitizen said they oppose the tax, while 35 percent support it. The Nashville-based polling firm did not verify whether respondents were registered voters, only that they were Oregon residents.
The survey asked respondents: "There is an effort to refer to Oregon voters a new, nearly $600 million tax on health insurance policy premiums. The money is intended to cover the costs of the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program. Would you support this new tax on health insurance premiums?"
Parrish said the repeal represents only $380 million out of the $600 million tax.
"We're not referring the entire thing," she said.
The petitioners, who include Parrish and Republican state Reps. Sal Esquivel of Medford and Cedric Hayden of Roseburg, want to repeal a 0.7 percent tax on hospitals and providers.
Other sections of the law they want to refer to voters are taxes on insurers, the Public Employees Benefits Board and coordinated care organizations, provider networks for Medicaid patients. They also want to stop a provision of the law that allows insurers to increase premiums by up to 1.5 percent to recover costs of the insurer assessment.
Patty Wentz, spokesperson for the Oregon Health Care Coalition, said the poll appears to be timed to achieve a political end.
"Let's connect some dots. You have a push poll with wildly inaccurate information released a few days before signature turn-in," Wentz said. "This is a cynical political ploy with no relevance to reality, to the actual referendum, and what's at stake for the 1 million Oregonians who count on the Oregon Health Plan."
Respondents, who were registered users of icitizen, filled out the online survey between Sept. 13-28. The responses were weighted to U.S. Census benchmarks for gender, age, race, education, region and party identification in the state. The margin of error is 3.9 percent for the full sample of 645 respondents.