Nurses Speak Out
--Rachel Prusak, MSN, APRN, FNP-C
This month I had the privilege of co-facilitating a town hall with fellow ONA member, Teri Mills, to discuss Republican lawmaker Julie Parrish’s statewide effort to derail Medicaid funding and raise health care premiums for Oregonians. If Parrish's effort succeeds, it would be devastating for many of Oregon's most vulnerable residents, including the elderly and disabled patients I serve. During the town hall, many in attendance shared their personal stories about how her referendum on House Bill 2391 could affect their health care. While we all pursue our mission to fight for every person in Oregon to have equal access to comprehensive, affordable and high-quality health care, we must also fight to protect and expand access to the current system.
House Bill 2391, the Oregon Healthcare Protections bill, was passed by a bipartisan super-majority 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. Like nurses, these stakeholders understand basic, preventive care saves several dollars per dollar spent and averts costly emergency care that merely band-aids chronic health problems.
The Healthcare Protections Bill, expands the mechanism Oregon--and most other states--uses to fund Medicaid by leveraging additional funding from the federal government. These additional resources will mean that 375,000 Oregonians will still be able to access health care through the Oregon Health Plan, and an additional 220,000 will see their health care premiums lowered. If Representative Parrish successfully gathers more than 58,000 signatures by October 5 for Referendum 301, the fate of many Medicaid recipients' health care would be suspended in limbo until voters have the final say next year on a ballot.
As nurses, we witness people during their most vulnerable times. We understand that even individuals and families with employer-funded health insurance are at risk for needing the Medicaid safety net. We never know what sudden accident or diagnosis is around the corner. We don’t know if the next birth will be a premature infant or if we will receive a diagnosis of an early onset neuro-generative condition. This uncertainty highlights the need to fight to protect health care. A plan to repeal Oregon's health care without a viable replacement plan is dangerous and reckless.
Nurses always speak up when the health of our patients is at stake and this instance is no different. So, if you are asked to sign a petition to approve Referendum 301, please decline to sign. This referendum must be defeated. Reversing a bipartisan plan that keeps thousands of Oregonians insured is not only an insult to the voters, it gambles with real people and their lives. Right now, Oregon leaders have a choice: kick hundreds of thousands of Oregonians we serve off their health care or allow the insurance companies and hospitals that supported HB 2391 to invest in the health of patients. I believe that choice is clear. #declinetosign
Don't let the Oregon GOP roll back our progress on health care. Tell your legislator to stand up for affordable, accessible care.
Resist and Persist,
--Rachel Prusak, active member of Oreon Nurses Association and HCAO, and VP of Nurses for Single Payer