How does Clackamas County feel about repealing Oregon’s version of the Affordable Care Act?
Unlike the federal Republican approach languishing in the Senate, West Linn Republican Rep. Julie Parrish wants Oregon voters to undo the recent bipartisan bill passed by the Oregon Legislature.
She’s gathering signatures across the state now for a ballot measure to overturn HB 2391, which taxes hospitals to help pay for services for those who can’t, approximately one in five Oregonians.
Her petition would transfer costs primarily from insurance companies and provider hospitals directly to those who get sick. Even while Parrish claims support for Medicaid, her petition would actually result in higher medical costs for both patients and providers. That sounds like the would-be federal version.
Parrish would foist her own Oregon version of Trumpcare on the rest of us, all in the interest of ostensibly lowering taxes. But costs simply don’t disappear by cancelling the tax that pays for them. Let’s get specific.
Jimmy Smith lives with his wife in Molalla. He is 44, has severe back problems and diabetes and has not been able to work for 20 years. His Social Security disability check is $580 a month. When he hurts badly enough to where he can’t walk anymore, he goes to the hospital emergency room for help. He is not on Medicaid because his household income is a tad too high.
The ER is one of the most expensive medical services out there. Doctors do x-rays, run the full routine, have him spend the night, then give him some pain pills and send him on his way. Who picks up Jimmy’s bill? We all do by having to pay more for our services to offset the costs for folks like Jimmy who can’t pay the bill.
The Obama legislation offered to help states expand Medicaid to take care of people like Jimmy and thus lower the overall financial burden for the services he needs. Does that mean taxes go up? Yes, slightly for everyone, more for the well off.
Does that also mean our overall medical costs go down because Jimmy’s needs are now met by Medicaid? Yes. In other words, we’re paying a little more to save a lot; a sensible trade-off.
Expanding Medicaid sends a lot of federal dollars back to the states. Nationwide, this figure is huge. During the earlier years of the ACA, states that expanded Medicaid – such as Oregon — saw their costs for those without insurance drop by $5.7 billion dollar per year.
In those 20 (predominantly Republican) states that didn’t expand Medicaid, their costs have stayed the same. But by expanding Medicaid, on the other hand, costs go down. So why wouldn’t everyone want to expand the services and reduce the overall costs?
Welcome Rep. Parrish, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump and anyone else who thinks short-term tax savings will save money, even though the data shows clearly that it won’t do any such thing. Republicans flat don’t like taxes and therein lies the problem.
The question: Do private insurance companies (and their customers) who buy insurance and large medical operations pick up the tab or just those who get sick and actually require medical care? Obviously the pool of insurance buyers is larger than the pool of health care users.
That means a larger group of us all paying about $4.00 per month more or a smaller group paying substantially more when they need treatment.
Placing a tax on providers and marketplace participants isn’t as crazy as Parrish would have us believe. Corporations are making record profits because they are raising prices even as costs are not increasing.
Taking back some of those excess profits to fund Medicaid, as our Legislature has chosen to do, sends an important signal: excessive profit taking is not acceptable in the arena of health care.
The Oregon pioneer spirit would be reflected by each of us paying a little more than by forcing a small group to pay larger amounts especially when they have little control over when illness strikes. Too, reducing Medicaid coverage also reduces preventative care which is so critical in keeping long term costs down.
Oregon’s HB 2391 is not perfect. But it takes great strides in helping fill a growing gap in Oregon’s health care network. Indeed, many rural hospitals would not be able to stay in business without the support they get from the government helping the indigent.
Clackamas County Democrats know universal coverage is a viable option. We strive to make some form of that option a reality. In the meantime, it is better to be part of the solution than applying misguided short term band-aids which ultimately make the long term problem worse.
Neither Parrish nor Trump seem to have learned this simple lesson involving lower healthcare costs for more and more people. Oregonians should not sign her petitions, and if the measure does make the ballot, work vehemently against it.