Voters say yes to 101

POLK COUNTY — The Special Election on Jan. 23 resulted in voters favoring State Measure 101 — and keeping 350,000 Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan. Statewide, the measure passed with 61.6 percent, with 38.4 percent against the referendum. In Oregon, a referendum passing means voters approve of the legislation and of it becoming law.

During the 2017 Legislative Session, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 2391. The bill would impose a temporary 1.5 percent assessment on hospitals and commercial health insurance premiums to provide funding for Medicaid expansion.

After its passage in the Legislature, an effort to send the bill to the ballet as a veto referendum was spearheaded by the Stop Health Care Taxes petition, a registered campaign committee. 58,789 valid signatures were collected for the measure to reach voters in a special election.

Across Oregon, both sides of the health care debate led a statewide effort to get their message out before Jan. 23. The Stop Healthcare Taxes committee and its supporters are critical of Oregon Health Authority’s spending and the state’s health care funding. The “no” vote campaign, led by the Stop Healthcare Taxes committee and the Stop Healthcare Taxes measure committee, raised $352,829.

Hospitals, health care companies, and labor unions heavily contributed to Measure 101’s passing. The Yes for Healthcare and Protect Our Healthcare committees raised a combined $3.4 million. Fieldwork by county parties, including canvassing, phone banking, and text messaging voters, contributed to the Measure’s passage, according to DPO Chair Jeanne Atkins.

Polk County voter turnout was 39.65 percent. Of the 21,315 ballots counted in Polk County, 53.62 percent were in favor, and 46.38 percent were against. The measure’s passage means taxes on hospitals and insurance plans will remain. The money from those taxes will fund health care for Oregonians on Medicaid, ensuring that low-income seniors, adults and children will have coverage through June 2019.

The assessments created in HB 2391 are temporary, meant to create short-term funding until July 1, 2019. The legislature will have the upcoming 2018 six-week legislative session and 2019 regular session to approve a long-term solution once the current funding expires. Polk County Public Health is assisting with insurance program applications.

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