Oregonians to vote in January on health care tax

Referendum 301 had enough signatures for a special election set for Jan. 23, 2018

A doctor listens to a patient's heart, file. (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – A special election will be held to determine the fate of a multimillion-dollar health care tax that was approved by the Legislature this year.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office said Monday there were enough valid signatures to qualify Referendum 301 for a special election to be held Jan. 23, 2018. Election officials say of the 84,367 signatures submitted 70,320 were deemed valid. The required number of signatures to qualify for a ballot measure is just under 59,000.

Three Republican lawmakers are pushing the referendum on House Bill 2391 – which imposes a new 1.5 percent tax on health plans provided by some insurers as well as coordinated-care organizations that facilitate the state’s Medicaid program, called the Oregon Health Plan.

Reps. Julie Parish, Cedric Hayden and Sal Esquivel say the new taxes on hospitals and insurers would ultimately be shifted to consumers.

Proponents of the bill say it protects health care for 350,000 Oregonians and keeps premiums low for another 250,000.