Gov. Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek perpetrated a health care hustle in the wake of Tuesday’s victory for Measure 101. They claim the vote meant something it did not.
Brown said the “yes” vote meant voters said “everyone deserves access to affordable health care.” Kotek said the vote meant even more — “Oregon voters affirmed that everyone has a right to access affordable health care.”
But that was not the issue on the ballot. The vote was over how to pay for the expansion of Medicaid coverage in Oregon.
The victory of Measure 101 means the package of taxes the Legislature passed in House Bill 2391 to fund the Oregon Health Plan stays in place. The package of taxes includes taxes on health care providers and some health care premiums. For instance, school districts and people who buy health care on the exchange pay a new tax. But businesses that are big enough to self-insure and do self-insure don’t have to pay that tax. A “no” vote was aimed at killing those taxes that some people believed were unfair. There was nothing in HB 2391 that said health care was a right.
What Measure 101 meant was spun so hard it was like the head spin in “The Exorcist.” The taxes were not taxes. They were called “assessments” to muddy public understanding. Democrats in the Legislature even concocted a scheme to have a Democrat-controlled committee write the ballot title for Measure 101, so they could further spin what it was about.
Expect the spin to continue. In the February legislative session, legislators will be debating a carbon pricing scheme that will raise prices for many Oregonians. Supporters of that bill say that’s not a tax, either. It will sure feel like one on your wallet.