Special Election in Oregon Will Determine Fate of Medicaid Expansion

Oregon voters will go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether to approve a new set of taxes that would pay for an expansion of Medicaid that, among other things, guarantees health care to all children in the state.

Measure 101 would allow the state to place taxes on large hospitals and on most health insurance policies. As a result, the state could raise up to $320 million in taxes over the next two years.

That money would go toward covering the growing state share of the costs related to Medicaid expansion. In 2014, Oregon opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which made Medicaid available to people with an income under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Before that, Medicaid was only available to those living at 100 percent or below the poverty line. As a result of expansion, 375,000 Oregonians qualified for health care coverage.

Under the terms of Medicaid expansion, states are required to furnish a growing share of expenses, from 0 percent in 2014 to 10 percent by 2020. Over the next two years, that means Oregon must chip in between $210 million and $320 million.

Last year, the Oregon state lawmakers passed legislation that would fill the gap by levying taxes on healthcare providers, such as large hospitals and health insurance providers. They also passed Senate Bill 558, also known as “Cover All Kids,” which extended Medicaid eligibility to all children in the state, including undocumented children.

If voters approve Measure 101, those taxes will go into effect. However, if voters vote no, the state will have to find another way to fill the budget gap or change the terms of Medicaid eligibility. That could mean ending coverage recently provided under Medicaid expansion, paring back coverage for some groups or paying providers less, according to some analysts. The state would also forfeit between $630 million and $960 million in matching federal healthcare dollars.

Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to expand Medicaid.

Results from the ballot initiative will be live-streamed on the official Facebook page of Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson starting at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday night.

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Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 352 Articles
Jeremy is a West Coast-based senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jeremyloudenback@chronicleofsocialchange.org.