Oregon unions urge ‘yes’ vote on taxing health insurers, hospitals

PORTLAND, Ore.—Oregon’s unions are urging the state’s voters to back a special tax on insurers and hospitals in a special referendum set for Jan. 23, The Northwest Labor Press reports.

The tax, approved by the legislature’s Democratic majorities this year, would have hospitals pay 6 percent of net revenue and health insurers pay 1.5 percent of their premiums to the state. The estimated $670 million the two levies would raise would provide state matching money so Oregon can, with federal cost-sharing, expand its Medicaid program.

The hospitals have paid a “provider tax” since 2004, but the insurers’ tax is new. Three state Republican legislators gathered enough petition signatures to send both taxes to a referendum vote next year.

Unions supporting the taxes, and the “yes” vote for them on Ballot Measure 101, include state affiliates of the AFL-CIO, both teachers’ unions, AFSCME, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals, the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon School Employees Association-AFT and Service Employees Locals 49 and 503.

OSEA called “the modest provider assessment” a “major accomplishment” of state legislators. It’s “a bipartisan health care plan developed by experts in the field,” plus unions, businesses, hospitals, patient advocates and AARP, the union statement added.

“Thousands of our students — and many classified employees and their families — rely on the Oregon Health Plan and other critical assistance programs that Oregon offers. This measure is an issue of human decency,” School Employees President Tim Stoelb said.

Source: PAI