When last year’s state legislative session gaveled to a close, both Dem controlled chambers had passed a $330 million healthcare provider tax.
Their goals were to keep 350,000 Medicaid expansion recipients insured and to stabilize private insurance premiums. Most Republican lawmakers voted against the plan, three spearheaded an effort to put the matter directly to voters. Hence the January 23 special election on Measure 101. Yes retains the tax plan and benefits, no does not.
Under the plan, most employer and individually purchased plans are taxed at 1.5 percent, and hospitals at .07 percent. Insurers cannot raise their premiums more than the tax, and rural hospitals would not be taxed. Locally, Samaritan is not considered rural, but they still seem largely supportive of this measure, after expressing some initial concern.
Most of the tax goes for keeping low income Medicaid recipients insured, and the tax also triggers some federal matching funds that will help Oregon afford to do that.
Importantly, a fifth of the tax continues a ‘reinsurance’ program, which is basically an insurance policy for insurance companies. It partially reimburses the companies for extremely expensive care, think neonatal intensive care, leukemia, or catastrophic auto accidents. Doing this helps the insurers to keep rates stabilized.
This program already saves Oregonians money. For this year, Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services reports the average insured will pay $5 monthly because of the new insurance company tax, but that same person saves between $25 and $30 every month because of the reinsurance program.
We Strongly Endorse Voting Yes
Even stipulating some points opponents would make, the human toll of so many losing their benefits is entirely compelling in our decision
Also, we like the pragmatic approach lawmakers have taken: the tax triggers federal funding the state would not otherwise get, and the reinsurance program saves insurance buyers money.
Some opponents argue the law is unfair because Medicare and Veterans Administration recipients will not be taxed, and neither will self-insured companies. But, state lawmakers had no say in those matters, federal law bars states from taxing those benefits. And in the instance of both seniors and veterans, that seems reasonable to us.
Other opponents will argue there are alternatives to this measure, but we find them scary short on meaningful detail.
Most of the providers to be taxed also support a yes vote on this measure, and not only because they know the funds will come back to them, but because they all too well remember the heartbreak of so many uninsured clogging emergency rooms, delaying treatment and sometimes even dying needlessly.