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In the first ballot measure of the year, hints of a sea change 

Does this indicate a growing change in the way Oregonians feel about health care and economic disparity? We think so

click to enlarge A park boundary sign is staked on the site of the new 37-acre Alpenglow Park off 15th Street in Southeast Bend. There is an upcoming public open house about the park at the Bend Senior Center on Thursday, Feb. 22, from 6 to 8 pm. - SOURCE STAFF
  • Source staff
  • A park boundary sign is staked on the site of the new 37-acre Alpenglow Park off 15th Street in Southeast Bend. There is an upcoming public open house about the park at the Bend Senior Center on Thursday, Feb. 22, from 6 to 8 pm.

During the 2016 presidential election, a small majority of Deschutes County voted in favor of President Donald Trump. It was fairly close, at 46.36 percent for Trump versus 43.07 percent for Hillary Clinton, and in this part of Oregon, the spread highlighted a county that continues to be divided in its political leanings.

For this year's special election on Measure 101, however, change may be on the wind.

Last week, every single Democratic-leaning county in Oregon voted in favor of Measure 101. So did eight of the counties where the majority voted for Trump in 2016, according to the Eugene Register-Guard. In Deschutes County, 54 percent of voters voted yes and 46 percent voted no on Measure 101.

A vote in favor of Measure 101 was a vote in favor of preserving and even expanding Medicaid through the Oregon Health Plan in the state. This increase comes through a 0.7 percent tax on hospitals and a 1.5 percent tax on gross health insurance premiums, managed care organizations and insurers. This comes in the wake of very large national effort at the federal level to repeal the expansion of Medicaid within the Affordable Care Act.

Voters in the last election in Deschutes County may have majority-voted for a conservative platform in 2016, but when it comes to health care and the ability to provide for low-income Oregonians, they have spoken in favor of preserving and expanding it. If voters had gone the other way, the drop in state revenue—to the tune of hundreds of millions—would have meant that state legislators would have spent the majority of the upcoming legislative session working on finding another funding source—to the detriment of other important work, such as solving the Public Employees Retirement System crisis.

It doesn't happen often in Deschutes County, but somehow, voters have seen the value in adding an assessment that would raise revenue. Call it an assessment or a tax, but voters were smart enough to see that the two terms mean a better life for those who have less in our state. The fact that it passed, and won a majority vote here in Deschutes County, shows voters are paying attention and that they'll take action to ensure health care is accessible for all.

This was a vote in favor of health care as a right that, when separated from the rhetoric and craze of the current administration, people in many rural and conservative parts of Oregon supported. Does this first ballot measure of the year indicate a growing change in the way Oregonians think about health care and our relation to the widening economic disparity in our state?

We believe so.


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