My View: Don't repeal Oregon health care model
Congressional Republicans' recent failure to repeal Obamacare hasn't stopped a small contingent of radicalized lawmakers, led by state Rep. Julie Parrish, from attempting to take health care away from hundreds of thousands of Oregonians.
By asking voters to repeal funding for Medicaid, they essentially are asking voters to force more uninsured Oregonians to seek care in costly and often unnecessary emergency settings, which we all pay for.
The referral effort flies in the face of a long history of bipartisanship in Oregon health care policy. Oregon has been a national leader in cost-effective health care delivery for more than 25 years, and we did it without partisan grandstanding. Unlike Congress, we have a rich tradition of working collaboratively and across the aisle. It was a bipartisan Legislature that created the Oregon Health Plan, the state-managed Medicaid program, and later created our coordinated care system that has improved health outcomes and lowered costs.
This year, lawmakers were tasked with addressing a billion-dollar shortage in the Medicaid program, driven by reductions in federal spending and increasing health care costs. They had two choices: eliminate coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians or generate the necessary revenues to sustain it. Three-fifths of the Legislature, including multiple Republicans, agreed to expand our current taxes on the health care industry in order to draw more federal dollars into our system and stabilize rates on the commercial health insurance market.
But Parrish, who supported the expanded Medicaid model under Obamacare, has refused to accept a funding mechanism to continue it. Instead, she responded, not with a solution, but by proposing an eleventh-hour plan to kick the can down the road. Similar to her like-minded counterparts in the U.S. Senate, Parrish is proposing a plan to repeal without a viable replacement.
The fact is, an overwhelming majority of 49 states use provider taxes to draw federal dollars into their health care systems. This plan was supported by the health care community and small business owners because we know that reducing the Medicaid population results in increased health care costs for the rest of us. We also know that taking coverage away from 350,000 low-income Oregonians, more than the populations of Salem and Eugene combined, will disproportionately hurt children, seniors and the permanently disabled.
So, we must ask ourselves, why would anyone propose kicking our neighbors off their health insurance? Why would we follow national partisan-driven politics and repeal Medicaid funding without a replacement plan rather than support a bipartisan and collaborative process, endorsed by insurers, hospitals and doctors, to ensure Oregonians get the care they need?
We should support the Oregon model and continue to work together to protect health care for all Oregonians.