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Could Health-Care Referendum Put Vulnerable Oregonians At Risk?

More than $200 million could be cut from the Oregon Health Plan if Referendum 301 is rejected. (Compassion Connect/Flickr)
More than $200 million could be cut from the Oregon Health Plan if Referendum 301 is rejected. (Compassion Connect/Flickr)
October 23, 2017

THE DALLES, Ore. -- Groups are mobilizing to protect the heath coverage of 350,000 Oregonians from an initiative heading for January's ballot.

Measure 101 challenges House Bill 2391 - passed by this year's Legislature and supported by most health insurers and providers - which funds insurance for low-income people on the Oregon Health Plan through a tax on health insurers and providers.

Karen Escobar of The Dalles has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and relies on OHP for in-home care and medication. She said she couldn't function without it.

"Without my mental meds, I couldn't live on my own,” Escobar said. "I can't even boil water without them."

She said her medication also gives her the capacity to stay in contact with her family.

Opponents of the tax claim it could increase health care costs, and the state should better manage its money to fill the health care budget gap. More than $200 million in funding for OHP and the State Reinsurance Program will be cut if HB 2391 is repealed.

Escobar's caretaker Nancy Finerty said that would affect people in her line of work. She said the people she takes care of wouldn't be able to afford in-home care anymore and would most likely have to live in a nursing home.

"We are not just paperwork. All of us is people,” Finerty said. "And we depend on working for these people that - I know they're called clients, but these people aren't clients. They are family. They are friends."

Because of the initiative's wording, a "yes" vote will keep the health care funding in place and a "no" vote will rescind it.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR