Oregonians are being asked to vote on Measure 101 in a Jan. 23 special election

This month, ballots were received in mailboxes across Oregon, but it contains just one measure: 101.

The measure comes in response to House Bill 2391 that the legislature passed this summer to address healthcare funding issues including Oregon's Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan. The bill imposed an assessment on health insurance premiums and a non-refundable assessment on hospitals' net revenues, which the Legislative Revenue office estimated would raise $673 million in the 2017-19 biennium, according to a news release from the Oregon School Boards Association.

But in an effort to repeal HB 2391, three Republican state representatives—Julie Parrish of West Linn, Cedric Hayden of Roseburg and Sal Equivel of Medford—wanted to pass parts of the bill onto voters in the form of Measure 101 and are encouraging a no vote, according to Claire Withycombe of the Portland Tribune.

Yes Vote

A yes vote approves HB 2391 and the assessments it imposes.

One of the concerns of a yes vote is that insurers can pass the expenses onto consumers in the form of insurance premium spikes. The law only allows insurers to increase rates by up to 1.5 percent. Others suggest that Measure 101 does not pass the fairness test, saying that the taxes are inequitable. Still others worry that a yes vote will result in $25 million in new assessments being paid by school districts statewide, according to the OSBA news release. But the OSBA, which supports a yes vote on Measure 101, maintains that schools stand to lose much more if the measure fails.

OSBA supports a yes vote, along with the Oregon Education Association, Oregon PTA, Stand for Children, League of Women Voters-Oregon and a wide variety of healthcare organizations also support the measure, according to the OSBA news release.

"OSBA has joined other education and healthcare organizations in supporting the measure for two primary reasons: State revenues, and therefore school budgets, are projected to fall by hundreds of millions of dollars if the measure fails; and limiting healthcare options to low-income families will tend to limit their educational opportunities," the news release says.

Canby School Board Vice Chair Rob Sheveland also supports the measure. The board has not taken a stance and his opinions do not represent that of the school board, but Sheveland offered his thoughts as an Oregon citizen.

"As an individual citizen, I am fully in support of Measure 101," Sheveland said. "I think it's an important measure to ensure that our schools and healthcare system don't see decreases in funding that are going to hurt our ability to care for low-income individuals that are on Medicaid and impact the school budget."

No Vote

A no vote repeals parts of HB 2391 and will result in a hit to the state's budget in the amount of $210 million to $320 million and therefore a possible reduction of $630 million to $960 million, or more, in federal Medicaid matching funds, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.

With that kind of a financial impact, in the event of a no result, the state will have to come up with a plan to remediate the budget gap, which means that the top income-earners of the 1 million Oregonians who are on the Oregon Health Plan, about 350,000 people, could lose coverage and/or schools could see a reduction in expected funding.

"Reductions in the second year of the biennium could devastate services for schools and kids," said OSBA Executive Director Jim Green. "For some districts, there are going to be cuts they can't easily weather."

Groups such as Oregonians Against More Healthcare Taxes, and newspapers such as the Bend Bulletin and The Oregonian support a no vote on Measure 101.

Special election ballots are due Jan. 23 by 8 p.m.

Kristen Wohlers
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