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Celebrations as Oregon Voters Approve Tax Hike to Cover Medicaid Expansion

"Voters have spoken and lawmakers now have a clear mandate, Oregonians believe everyone deserves access to affordable healthcare."

Local organizers in Oregon urged voters to approve the ballot initiative to tax healthcare and insurance providers to cover cost of expanding Medicaid within the state. (Photo: Hannah Love/Twitter)

Voters in Oregon overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to impose hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes on hospitals, health insurers, and managed care companies to cover the costs of expanding Medicaid in the state.

In Tuesday's special election for the Medicaid tax hike, or Measure 101, more than 60 percent of Oregonians voted for what the Assoicated Press described as "a short-term fix for healthcare funding that will generate between $210 million and $320 million in revenue over two years."

Andy Slavitt, who led the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid under the Obama administration, said in a tweet that the results proved that "just like in Maine, people around the country broadly support expanding coverage and care," referencing the November election, when Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid through a ballot initiative.

Local organizers in Oregon celebrated as the results came in late Tuesday, praising voters for not only supporting the state's efforts to provide more low-income people with healthcare, but also for "sending a message nationally that affirms public support for Medicaid."

"Voters have spoken and lawmakers now have a clear mandate, Oregonians believe everyone deserves access to affordable healthcare," Patty Wentz, a spokeswoman for the campaign promoting the measure, told The Oregonian. "The other big message from this campaign is healthcare should not be a political pawn, and Oregonians are going to band together against anyone who tries to take it away."

The Oregonian noted the election results were also "a victory for Democrats, who put the deal together and brokered enough votes in the legislature to pass it, and for the healthcare industry, which bankrolled the 'yes' campaign and will benefit from the resulting $1 billion-plus that will be spent on Oregonians' healthcare."

The state has substantially expanded its Medicaid coverage in recent decades, most recently under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—enabling 95 percent of Oregon's residents and 98 percent of children to secure (pdf) health insurance coverage.

However, the expansion left lawmakers debating how best to deal with the associated costs, which led them to draft the deal approved by voters Tuesday.

Robin Rudowitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducts healthcare research and analysis, told ThinkProgress that of the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA, eight others plan to cover costs through provider taxes.

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