Jan. 24 (UPI) — Oregonians on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to preserve a tax increase on hospitals and health insurance policies to pay for the state’s Medicaid program.
The 61 to 39 vote on Measure 101 was a rebuke of a Republican-led effort to effectively repeal a $550 million revenue package to fund the state’s health care program for low-income people that was passed by the Democrat-controlled state House and Senate.
“It really confirms that Oregonians prioritize making sure all Oregonians have access to health care,” Democratic state Rep. Dan Rayfield told the Register-Guard. “The margin speaks for itself.”
The revenue package imposed a 0.7 percent tax increase on large hospitals and a 1.5 percent tax increase on insurance companies, which would likely be passed on to consumers, The Oregonian reported.
The extra taxes are expected to generate between $210 million and $320 million by 2019.
Under Oregon law, any new tax can be voted down if a petition gathers enough signatures, and three Republican lawmakers did that to force the vote on Measure 101 on Tuesday, NPR reported.
“This is about a fundamental disagreement that taxing other people’s insurance is the way to fund Medicaid,” Republican state Rep. Julie Parrish said.
But with Oregonians approving the measure, state Republicans said they’ll focus efforts on improving the state health care program.
“Our state’s health care programs have suffered from chronic failure for years,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane in a statement to the Register-Guard. “This culture of incompetence cannot be excused or forgotten in the wake of this ballot measure. I hope legislators on both sides of the aisle will make it a priority to safeguard and protect the investment in our state government that Oregon taxpayers have affirmed tonight.”
In addition to adding up to $320 million for the state health care program, the vote ensures that the state will qualify for between $630 million and $960 million in federal Medicaid matching funds, according to The Oregonian.