By Mary Bailey

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On Jan. 23, we Oregonians will vote on one issue, Measure 101. It is critical to mail in your “yes” vote for this measure if you care about preserving the health care funding that has already received budget approval (with a three-fifths supermajority) by our Legislature.

The budget calls for a modest increase to the current assessment for large hospitals, insurance companies, managed-care companies like coordinated-care organizations, as well as the Public Employees Benefit Board, resulting in a revenue stream of $210 million to $320 million from those sources.

Peter Courtney, a Democrat and senate president, and Ted Ferrioli, who until November was the Senate Republican leader, issued the following joint statement supporting the health care tax:

“We don’t always agree. But on Measure 101, there’s no question: Oregonians should vote YES.” According to these Senate leaders, “Measure 101 protects health care coverage for the hundreds of thousands of kids, families, seniors and people with disabilities on the Oregon Health Plan. Measure 101 stabilizes insurance markets, saving working families an average of $300 per year on their insurance premiums.”

The way that Measure 101 stabilizes insurance markets is through the State Reinsurance Program, which enables insurers to lower premiums for people who buy their own insurance by 6 percent. This will affect about 210,000 Oregonians.

A critical point seldom mentioned in the television ads in support of Measure 101 is the fact that if it fails, Oregon stands to lose federal matching funds for the Oregon Health Plan and the reinsurance program that helps stabilize costs for those who buy their insurance on the exchanges. Estimates vary widely, from almost $1 billion to nearly $5 billion. Regardless of the amount, it seems insane to me to jeopardize our access to those funds.

More than 160 organizations including the Oregon Medical Association, the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon Pediatric Society, AARP Oregon and the Oregon PTA support a “yes” vote on 101.

It is very telling that, even though they will be taxed under this measure, health care systems across the state, including Providence Health and Services, Legacy Health, Kaiser Permanente, Peace Health and our own St. Charles Health System are in favor of 101. Why would they support a yes on 101? Because eliminating medical coverage for our most vulnerable citizens will make it less likely that they will be able to access basic care including cost-effective preventive care and increase their use of emergency departments for routine medical problems or, worse, for the acute medical issues that could have been prevented. An ICU nurse at a recent meeting I attended gave the pre-Affordable Care Act example of an uninsured diabetic who could not afford his insulin and chose not to take it, ending up in the ICU with a bill of over $100,000.

Read your voters’ pamphlet on this issue, and you will see the multitude of organizations that support this measure. Notice that all but three of the arguments in opposition are written by Lindsay Berschauer, of Oregonians Against More Healthcare Taxes, and Julie Parrish, the Republican senator from West Linn who led the effort to get this issue on the ballot, even though it had passed with a three-fifths supermajority. At the debate on Measure 101 sponsored by the Oregon Health Forum, Parrish said, “You know, sometimes the way to heal that broken bone that didn’t heal right is to break it and reset it, and that’s kind of what Measure 101 is about.” This is an excellent example of what will happen to someone who loses their health insurance and doesn’t get a broken bone treated; they would either live with the resulting pain and disability or be subjected to an expensive operation they couldn’t afford.

As a nurse, I’m not willing to jeopardize the health of hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens. Please join me in voting “yes” on Measure 101.

— Mary Bailey is a registered nurse and lives in Bend.

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