December 21st, 2017
Sometimes an election needs a rapid response. This is the case with Ballot Measure 101, a January 23rd Oregon special election that could decide the fate of Oregon’s rural health care system and medical coverage for over 300,000 people in our State.
What is Measure 101?
Since 2014, Oregon dollars and Federal dollars from the Affordable Care Act have been used to expand health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income Oregonians through the Oregon Health Plan. This year the state legislature passed a tax on large medical corporations to fund Oregon’s share of the expansion. For every 66 cents raised by this legislation the Federal government will contribute $9.40 to keep low-income Oregonians on expanded health insurance. The companies that would pay are in favor of this plan, for very good reasons. Without the Oregon Health Plan, uninsured low-income people would be forced to rely on emergency room visits, and all those very expensive costs would be absorbed by hospitals and the larger medical system. This was the case before 2014, when our hospitals were verging on collapse, and private medical insurance premiums were skyrocketing. The Oregon Health Plan expansion saved many of our rural hospitals and clinics, which are critical to the health, safety and economic resilience of our communities.
However, after the tax passed the legislature, three Oregon Republican legislators spearheaded a petition drive to force the tax to a vote. Voters will be asked to approve this tax on medical corporations in an off-year special election on January 23. This is Ballot Measure 101, and voters should vote YES.
Why Measure 101?
Three Oregon Republican legislators, Julie Parrish (R West Linn), Cedric Hayden (R Roseburg), and Sal Esquivel (R Medford) spearheaded the drive to place Measure 101 on the ballot on January 23. According to OPB, Rep Esquivel, who voted for the tax during the session, changed his mind in part because of legislation that opened up Oregon Health Plan coverage for undocumented immigrant children. These politicians hope to combine knee-jerk anti-tax sentiment with racist resentment of immigrants to overturn a policy that overwhelmingly benefits their own constituents and everyone living in our state. If this plan to fund healthcare for low-income people is overturned, it will have a disproportionate impact on rural Oregonians. A higher percentage of people in rural communities rely on OHP for their health insurance. We run the risk of losing even more infrastructure in our communities – rural hospitals, clinics, and emergency rooms – that depend on the OHP money. This is cynical politics, at the expense of the whole state.
What Should We Do?
Forcing a special election for Measure 101 is an attempt by far-right politicians to create divisions in our communities at the expense of our health, safety and economic resilience. When we vote yes on M101 in January, we reject the politics of scarcity and division, and affirm our support for the health and well-being of everyone in our communities.
We need to respond quickly to this attack on our communities. Go to yesforhealthcare.org to learn more about the campaign to save Oregon’s health care system. The Rural Organizing Project will be helping local Human Dignity Groups to create an on-the-ground rural response to make sure our neighbors have a voice and understand what is really at stake in the January 23rd election. Because this is a special election where many folks are not paying attention, getting out the YES vote, especially in rural Oregon, is crucial.
Here are ways that you and your local group can get involved in this election:
Create local outreach materials and distribute them: Over the years, human dignity groups have found that voters in their communities are often times more responsive to materials that come from a local group and include local information. Make a flyer or postcard or small brochure with information about the ballot measure. Check out this great flyer from Cave Junction, Josephine County with statistics provided by the Oregon Health Authority. There are many materials available from the statewide campaign as well. Share these materials with friends, neighbors, book groups, or over a glass of champagne on New Years Eve. Many people are not tracking this election, so don’t underestimate the value of sharing info with everyone you know around town or at meetings!
Reach out to voters: Make calls, knock on doors, and deliver materials to voters in your community. Join campaign events in towns where they are being organized or plan your own event! ROP can help you plan for the event and provide lists of voters for phone-banking or door-knocking. In January, ROP will be providing groups and leaders with lists of folks where you live are who likely progressive but unlikely to vote in a special election. This is a great way to get out the vote, and you might just find your next human dignity group members in the process!
Get the word out through local media: Write an Op-Ed or letter to the editor from you or your group. Share information on your community radio station. Purchase ad space, write a sign-on letter, and collect signatures of supportive people and community groups to publish in the paper.
Use social media: There are so many people who are impacted by this issue but do not know about the special election. Use your social media to spread the word. For a social media toolkit from the campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the South Coast to the Gorge, amazing rural leaders have hit the ground running, leafleting at the post office, talking to their neighbors at the grocery store, and submitting letters to the editor and signature ads to their local papers. In Port Orford, population 1100, human dignity leaders with North Curry Indivisible designed their own postcards with a photo from their local women’s march (which drew 300+!) and a brief message about why Curry County voters should Vote Yes! They’ll be handing out postcards outside the post office during the first week of January when ballots are reaching mailboxes.
In small towns across the state, activists and organizers are continuing to get the word out through the holidays because we know so well what is at stake for our families.We also know that this is a opportunity to build bridges and fight for the health and safety of all of our neighbors, no matter the divisions that state and national politicians try to sow in our communities.
Contact the Rural Organizing Project and let us know what you have planned for your local community. Or give us a call and we can help think through some ideas for your town!
Grace, Cara, Mike and the ROP Team
Special thanks to Mike Edera, long time human dignity group leader and ROP wise friend, for the information provided in this ROPnet.