Virginia Garcia plans for future ahead of Measure 101 vote
Cornelius-based Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center says as many as 9,000 of its patients could lose insurance coverage if Measure 101 fails at the special-election ballot box next week.
Virginia Garcia spokeswoman Kasi Woidyla told the Tribune officials at the health clinic have been actively campaigning for the measure's passage to keep that from happening.
"Measure 101 is extremely important to Virginia Garcia," she said. "This measure impacts effectively everyone on the Medicaid program through the Oregon Health Plan. It would substantially cut a lot of people out of the program completely."
Virginia Garcia, which specializes in serving poor and migrant families, operates nearly a dozen medical and dental clinics in Washington and Yamhill counties, as well as a women's clinics in Hillsboro and several school-based health centers.
Measure 101, which voters have final say on Jan. 23, attempts to pay for rising Medicaid costs by effectively raise taxes on hospitals and health insurance companies.
Oregon has one of the highest rates of insurance coverage in the nation, with 95 percent of Oregonians possessing some form of health insurance after Medicaid expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
But the state has struggled to find a way to pay for that amount of coverage at a time when the Trump administration plans to reduce federal Medicaid contributions.
The plan is complex, but hospitals would see a 0.7 percent increase to its existing taxes, known as assessments, and health insurance contracts would rise 1.5 percent.
Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, has led a charge urging voters to say 'no' to Measure 101. She, along with a group of Republican lawmakers, collected signatures to place the issue before voters in an attempt to stop the plan from moving forward, saying the plan isn't fair to Oregonians, who she says will likely pay higher fees as hospitals and insurance groups raise rates to pay for Measure 101's higher taxes.
Opponents say Medicaid won't lose members
Nearly two-thirds of Virginia Garcia's patients are insured through Medicaid and the Oregon Health Plan, Woidyla said. Another 10 percent are uninsured.
Woidyla said that about 9,000 of Virginia Garcia's patients would lose their health insurance coverage if Measure 101 goes down to defeat. According to the Yes for Healthcare campaign, which is promoting the measure's passage, the number statewide is closer to 350,000.
"We have a waiting list for uninsured patients," Woidyla said. "We can't treat all the patients that need our help. The need is going to continue to be there, no matter what. But if Measure 101 does not pass, that need is going to substantially increase."
Parrish disputes those numbers, saying it's unlikely anyone will lose their health insurance do to the failure of Measure 101.
"The math doesn't add up," Parrish said. "They are making an assumption."
Parrish said the increased assessments on hospitals and insurers will be passed onto patients. She also said she doesn't trust the Oregon Health Authority, the government agency responsible for the state's Medicaid program. OHA has come under fire for its handling of Cover Oregon, and overpayments to health care organizations contracted to serve Medicaid patients.
"I appreciate the Virginia Garcias of the world," Parrish said. "I'm not saying they don't do good work, but I believe they are misinformed, scared and being manipulated by Washington, D.C., campaign consultants paid to pass this measure."
As a medical clinic, not a hospital, Virginia Garcia wouldn't be subject to the increased assessment if Measure 101 passes, but two other Hillsboro-area hospitals would pay millions if the measure passes the muster of voters on Jan. 23: Tuality Healthcare downtown and Kaiser Permanente, which operates the Westside Medical Center on Northeast Stucki Avenue near Tanasbourne.
Kaiser Permanente has come out in favor of the measure, saying it is in the best interests of the state.
"Kaiser Permanente Northwest supports Measure 101 because it protects healthcare coverage for many vulnerable Oregonians," Kaiser spokeswoman Amy Fauver said in a written statement. "By providing stable financing for Oregon's Medicaid program, Measure 101 is consistent with Kaiser Permanente's core belief that health care must be affordable for all. Supporting Measure 101 is also consistent with our commitment to serve members at all stages of their lives, regardless of how their health care is paid for. Today, we proudly care for about 42,000 Medicaid members in Oregon and Washington."
Lindsay Coon, a spokeswoman for Tuality Healthcare, said the hospital is barred from discussing Measure 101 or endorsing the measure because of the hospital's affiliation with Oregon Health & Science University, a public university.
While Tuality isn't able to say much about the measure on its own, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, which represents all hospitals in Oregon, has endorsed the measure.
"If you cut people off of Medicaid, they're forced to come to emergency rooms without insurance, which drives up the costs more than they would have been," said Paul Schmidt, OAHHS spokesman. "We've lived that already during the pre-(Affordable Care Act) world. Those people are sicker, and it's not a good thing."
By Geoff Pursinger
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