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Health care tax doesn't pass fairness test
It was disappointing to read that the Pamplin family of newspapers' editorial board (which includes The Times, Jan. 4 edition) endorsed Measure 101. Other daily newspapers, including The Oregonian and the Bend Bulletin, have rendered a firm "No on 101" endorsement. They believe Measure 101 taxes are inequitable.
However, we appreciate your editorial board pointing out a very salient point. It is indeed unlikely anyone on the Oregon Health Plan loses health care access if voters vote "no" on 101.
As voters consider the ballots in front of them, the question we are asking Oregonians to consider isn't whether we should fund Medicaid. It isn't even asking you to consider how much we spend on Medicaid. Measure 101 asks voters to consider whether $330 million of a $13.69 billion budget passed by the Legislature is fair, equitable and sustainable. If the goal was to halt the entire Medicaid program, we would have referred the entire funding package, not 9 percent of funds (state and possible federal dollars) in Measure 101.
Is it fair that only half the state was taxed to shoulder the health care burden of 956,000 Medicaid recipients, while Oregon's largest self-insured corporations, unions and insurance companies were exempted from paying any taxes health insurance premiums? Is it fair that health insurance companies, many of which posted banner 2017 profits, were allowed to pass their tax obligation onto ratepayers?
Nearly 90,000 Oregonians who signed the petition, including thousands of Democratic and independent voters, clearly didn't think Measure 101 taxes passed the fairness test.
How does taxing the health insurance plans of public school employees to the tune of $25 million make any sense when Oregon is ranked 48th in graduation rates, our class sizes are too high and we have the worst absenteeism rate in the nation?
Oregonians want lawmakers to fund education. Passing the burden of Medicaid funding onto school budgets when lawmakers failed to fully fund voter-approved education measures is absurd.
Measure 101 taxes are not constitutionally protected for Medicaid. The Legislature can take these and use them for other purposes. They swept funds set aside for disabled adults who used to live at the old Fairview Hospital, and they can sweep funds again.
By now, you've probably seen the $2.5 million of print and television ads, produced by Washington, D.C., campaign consultants, begging you to vote "yes" on Measure 101. Ask yourself this: when was the last time you remember insurance companies and hospitals begging you to tax them? Are Oregonians supposed to believe these same health care corporations, which vigorously opposed Measure 97, now think taxing corporations is a good idea?
The fact is, they're insulated from these particular taxes because they will pass their taxes on to patients. If you are a senior with Medicare or a veteran with Tricare, you can expect hospitals will charge you higher hospital costs to cover these taxes. Insurance companies even got an extra $50 million "windfall" in House Bill 3398. That money could've been matched for Medicaid; instead lawmakers propped up insurance company profits.
In debate after debate, Providence Health & Services, a lead supporter of Measure 101, has refused to say that Providence won't increase the price of hospital services for patients, including seniors and working families who can't afford higher health care costs.
We're proud to stand up for the 1.2 million Oregonians without a lobbyist, who aren't beholden to special interests and who were too busy working to pay for health care to come to testify on a bill that taxes them on a basic human need.
Washington, D.C., pollsters, funded by the health care lobby, have done a masterful job crafting messages designed to tug your heartstrings and make you feel guilty if you vote "no." But 350,000 Oregonians will not lose health care on Jan. 24 if voters vote "no."
Set aside the emotional arguments, and look at the facts. The Oregon Health Authority has wasted and mismanaged a billion of our health care tax dollars since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Months after Medicaid profiteers were found to be overpaid $64 million and they still haven't given taxpayers back their money.
We urge voters to vote "no" on Measure 101 and demand lawmakers craft a fair, equitable and sustainable Medicaid funding package where everyone pays to be part of the solution.
State Reps. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, and Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg, led the effort to put the health care tax to a public vote. Parrish's district includes Tualatin. Learn more at www.stophealthcaretaxes.com.
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