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Poll: Majority oppose state tax on health care

The online survey by icitizen gauged Oregonians' opinions on a state health care tax to fund Medicaid and other new policies.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - A heart failure patient is brought into Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center on a stretcher. A new icitizen poll says most Oregonians would oppose a $600 million tax on health insurance policies. SALEM — Most Oregonians oppose a proposed tax on health insurance policy premiums to fund the state's Medicaid program, according to a survey by icitizen.

About 58 percent of 645 respondents surveyed online by the Nashville pollster said they oppose the tax, while 35 percent support it. Icitizen did not verify whether respondents were registered voters, only that they were Oregon resident.

Three Republican lawmakers want to refer parts of the law — which raises a variety of revenues to help the state pay for the Oregon Health Plan, the state's version of Medicaid.

"We have not done any polling so I have nothing to compare it to, but I would say it is consistent with feedback we have received from folks who signed the petition," said state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, who spearheaded a petition for the referral.

Petitioners must gather nearly 59,000 signatures by Oct. 5 to place the referral on the ballot for a January special election.

'Connect the dots'

The survey asked respondents: "There is an effort to refer Oregon voters a new, nearly $600 million tax on health insurance policy premiums. The money is intended to cover the costs of the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program. Would you support this new tax on health insurance premiums?"

COURTESTY PHOTO - Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West LinnParrish said the repeal represents only $380 million out of the $600 million tax. "We're not referring the entire thing," she said.

Petitioners, who include Parrish and Republican state Reps. Sal Esquivel of Medford and Cedric Hayden of Roseburg, want to repeal a 0.7 percent tax on hospitals and providers.

Other sections of the law they want to refer to voters are taxes on insurers, the Public Employees Benefits Board and coordinated care organizations, regional provider networks for Medicaid patients. They also want to stop a provision of the law that allows insurers to increase premiums by up to 1.5 percent to recover costs of the insurer assessment.

Patty Wentz, spokesperson for the Oregon Health Care Coalition, said the poll appears to be timed to achieve a political end.

"Let's connect some dots. You have a push poll with wildly inaccurate information released a few days before signature turn-in by a political operative who has been supported by the same extreme right-wing groups as the chief petitioner, such as the Oregon Firearms Federation," Wentz said. "This is a cynical political ploy with no relevance to reality, to the actual referendum, and what's at stake for the one million Oregonians who count on the Oregon Health Plan and the more than 210,000 people whose premiums will increase if the referendum doesn't pass. Oregonians who want accurate information should read the ballot title and the fiscal impact estimate that were created through a bi-partisan public process and are posted online."

Support for DACA

Respondents, who were registered users of icitizen, filled out the online survey online between Sept. 13 and 28. The responses were weighted to U.S. Census benchmarks for gender, age, race, education, region and party identification in the state. The margin of error is 3.9 percent for the full sample of 645 respondents.

The survey also gauged Oregonians' views on other state policies.

A new law expanding coverage of reproductive health care, including abortion, to people of all incomes, U.S. citizenship status and gender identity garnered 49 percent support and 50 percent opposition.

Respondents also were almost evenly split over a new law to reduce criminal penalties for possession of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor.

A majority of respondents, 54 percent, oppose sanctuary cities, which prohibit police from profiling immigrants and from assisting federal authorities in enforcing federal immigration law.

More than half of respondents, 51 percent, support ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program allows undocumented youth brought to the country as children to legally work and attend school here.

Pamplin Media/EO Media Group Capital Bureau reporter Claire Withycombe contributed to this story.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
email: pachen@portlandtribune.com
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