Opposition to Health Care industry Assessment

The case for Ballot Measure 101

by Mike Huntington, M.D.
Published in the Corvallis Gazette-Times as an OpEd on Oct. 19
(See also this article by Janet Bauer of OCPP

Access to health care for 350,000 Oregonians, 1 in 12 of us, is in jeopardy. Oregon Ballot Measure 101 needs your “yes” vote next January to preserve health care for these Oregonians. Maybe one is your friend or neighbor.

Healthcare-SQ-250x250.jpg

Some background: The 2017 Oregon legislature passed the Oregon Health Care Protections Bill (HB 2391) to preserve funding for Medicaid. The bill requires an assessment on hospitals. It had the blessing of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, the Oregon Medical Association, Providence Health and Services, Kaiser Permanente, and Moda Health. These organizations agreed knowing that Oregon must first raise its portion of Medicaid funding to qualify for much larger matching federal Medicaid funds. They know that the money will filter back to the hospitals as payments for services to Medicaid patients. Without these funds people in the Medicaid expansion group will either go without care or their medical costs will increase the hospital’s overall costs which in turn will increase everyone’s hospital bills.

Rudolf Virchow, a German pathologist said in 1848, “All diseases have two causes: one is pathological, the other — political.” The health insurance industry has created a system that causes illness for those Americans who don’t fit certain categories of wealth, health, gender, job, location, age, or political influence. And worse, the system (a non-system) invites resentment when one category seems to benefit more than another.

I have spoken with people whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private insurance. They go without health care and may resent people with lower incomes who do qualify for Medicaid and therefore get health care. The resentment is ironically worsened by fear or even disbelief and denial that their own incomes might one day drop low enough to qualify for Medicaid. Our health insurance system promotes not just illness but also resentment and fear. Most of the people who qualify for Medicaid or subsidies through the Affordable Care Act are not slackers; rather they are average Oregonians who work in jobs, often two or more, that do not provide them with health care benefits.

HB 2391 was a bipartisan negotiated solution among our legislators to continue the Medicaid coverage and meet a revenue shortfall. Nevertheless, four state representatives have succeeded in gathering sufficient signatures to certify Ballot Measure 101 for a Jan. 23 special election. They want to repeal the Medicaid funding bill.

Gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler of Bend, Julie Parrish of West Linn, Cedric Hayden of south Lane County, and Sal Esquival of Medford are the four state representative who are behind the repeal effort and are portraying HB 2391 as unnecessary and wasteful. They want us to vote “no.” They are mistaken. A “no” vote would eliminate this funding, have devastating effects on thousands of Oregonians, and would waste legislators’ time and energies in a scramble for other solutions.

Keep health care available for members of our community and state. Please vote “yes” on Ballot Measure 101 in January. Stay tuned at mvhca.org and hcao.org for single-risk-pool solutions to further improve access and reduce cost, complexity, and confusion in health care.

[Ed.Note: The proposed ballot title, containing further explanations, can be viewed on pages 3 and 4 of the document HERE. To be prepared for opposing arguments, see this article by the Cascade Policy Institute (which “promotes property rights, incentives, markets and decentralized decision making”) and argues, in essence, for a “no” vote.]