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Bill headed to Senate is for four years, recoups more in federal funds for health care for poor.



Oregon’s hospitals will continue to pay a tax that allows the state to recoup billions in federal money to pay for health care for low-income people.

The Oregon House voted 56-2 on Wednesday to extend the tax by four years — double the usual two-year renewal — and send House Bill 2395 to the Senate.

Oregon has had a provider tax in some form since 2003. The current version has been endorsed by a coalition of groups.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all but one state (Alaska) had similar provider taxes in 2013-14.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, described it as a “dream tax.”

“We collect the tax from hospitals, we put it up as a match for federal money, and then we give it back to the hospitals,” says Greenlick, chairman of the House Health Care Committee. “They have enough money to put people in Medicaid so they have health insurance to pay for hospitalizations.”

The tax is projected to raise $880 million in the next two-year cycle, which starts July 1, and would recoup an estimated $2.4 billion in federal funds from Medicaid. For the 2017-19 budget cycle, the tax is projected to raise just under $1.1 billion, which would recoup $2.9 billion in federal funds.

Hospitals get back at least the amount they pay in provider taxes.

The renewed tax would end Sept. 30, 2019.

Without the tax, Oregon and other states would have trouble paying for care for low-income people. In Oregon, that is done through the Oregon Health Plan, which under the federal Affordable Care Act was expanded to cover more low-income people.

A Senate vote is likely soon, given that the bill has already been cleared by the Legislature’s joint budget committee.

Rep. Jim Weidner, R-Yamhill, was one of two dissenters on the vote. “This is the wrong way for us to recover money from the federal government,” he says.

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