Here in Oregon there's only one thing on the January ballot, Measure 101. And it's a no- brainer: VOTE YES
I say this after spending an hour today hearing both sides make their best cases for "Yes" and "No" at a Salem City Club meeting. Even though I came in expecting that Yes would have the better arguments, I was surprised how weak the No arguments were.
Measure 101 asks Oregonians to decide if $210 to $320 million worth of assessments on insurance companies, some hospitals, the Public Employees Benefit Board, and managed care organizations go into effect, as passed by the 2017 legislature.
This money leverages $630 to $960 million, or more, in federal Medicaid matching funds. So we're talking about the possibility of a billion dollar shortfall in payments that provide health care to low-income people in Oregon.
That would be a disaster.
So it's no wonder that Tonia Hunt, who argued the Yes side, said that 155 organizations are supporting Measure 101. This notably includes the entities that would pay the assessments, plus doctors, nurses, and a whole bunch of other groups in Oregon.
Organized opposition to Measure 101 apparently is limited to a few tax-hating legislators. Lindsay Berschauer, the No advocate, didn't mention a single organization that's on her side.
I guess taking health care away from tens of thousands of Oregonians and forfeiting up to a billion dollars of federal money that would have to be made up by Oregon taxpayers isn't all that popular.
Berschauer tried to make a big deal out of the fact that 90,000 people signed the initiative petition that got Measure 101 on the January ballot. Well, given that Oregon has 4.1 million people, it isn't surprising that 90,000 would support a really bad idea.
The moderator of the debate, Bill Mainwaring, asked a great question of Hunt and Berschauer. He said that if Measure 101 failed, logically one of three outcomes would result.
(1) The legislature could decide to reduce the health care budget by about $210 million, which would mean an additional loss of about $640 million in federal funds, thereby necessitating cutting off people from the Oregon Health Plan, reducing benefits, or both.
(2) The legislature could take the $210 million out of somewhere else in the state general fund budget, like schools or public safety.
(3) The legislature could enact a different tax, such as a surtax on the Oregon income tax. He figured that an increase of 1.2% would raise $210 million.
Neither of these options is very appealing.
Yet Berschauer couldn't come up with any other ways of finding $210 million, other than talking in some pretty vague ways about how state government has wasted money in the past -- which obviously has zero relevance for how money could be found now to fund health care for low-income people should Measure 101 be voted down.
So all of the persuasive arguments were on the Yes side at today's City Club debate.
Like I said, it's a no-brainer. Vote YES on Measure 101. Children and others needing health care will thank you.