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Medical Professionals Turn Out in Support of Measure 101

Oregon has made big strides in health coverage for residents since it expanded Medicaid, but the state needs to raise more money to keep the system in place. (sasint/Pixabay)
Oregon has made big strides in health coverage for residents since it expanded Medicaid, but the state needs to raise more money to keep the system in place. (sasint/Pixabay)
January 19, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Medical professionals are turning out in the final stretch before Tuesday's special election to support Measure 101, which would continue to fund health care for low income Oregonians.

The Oregon Medical Association, Oregon Nurses Association, and hospitals such as Legacy Health are among the groups saying 350,000 people on Medicaid could lose coverage if the measure doesn't pass.

The state has made big strides in coverage since it expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Doctor Evan Saulino, a family physician at Providence, says his job was sometimes grim before Medicaid expansion.

"I would recommend things routinely for my patients that they just couldn't get because they didn't have coverage,” says the physician. “Literally, I've had patients who have died because they didn't have access to basic coverage. They could come see me; they couldn't do anything else. And we can't go back to that," he stresses.

Measure 101 approves a fee passed by legislators in 2017 on some healthcare providers for the next two years. Opponents of the measure call it a tax that is only aimed at some types of coverage, and see it as a temporary fix.

If 101 fails, state lawmakers will have to find a way to fill a budget gap of about $1 billion caused by lack of revenue and fewer matching federal dollars for health care.

Supporters of the measure, including those who will pay the fee, say with more people covered, there are fewer emergency room visits, meaning lower costs for hospitals. Margaret Ngai is a registered nurse at Legacy Health Children's Hospital. She sees the measure as integral to covering Oregon's most vulnerable.

"Health care in our community should really be non-negotiable,” says Ngai. “We're talking about children being able to go to primary care appointments. We're talking about seniors, people with disabilities, and people who deserve to have care and deserve to be able to see a doctor, or a nurse or nurse practitioner, when they're sick."

Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Drop boxes are located throughout the state.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR