Oregon Vote Confirms: Americans Are Desperate for Help with Health Insurance Costs

Measure 101 Oregon (Gillian Flaccus / Associated Press)
Gillian Flaccus / Associated Press

Oregon voters approved a referendum on Tuesday to raise taxes to pay for the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

Measure 101, which passed by a roughly 60% to 40% margin, “will raise $210 million to $320 million in taxes on Oregon’s largest hospitals and many health insurance policies by 2019,” according to a report by the Oregonian.

The vote follows a similar referendum in Maine last November — which also passed by roughly 60% to 40%.

And in December, Democrat Doug Jones won an upset victory in a special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama, in a campaign where he emphasized the need to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The Oregon vote is particularly noteworthy, as it came in a state where Obamacare failed miserably at its launch. The state’s online Obamacare exchange, “Cover Oregon,” collapsed and was shut down in 2014 after six months in operation, during which it failed to register patients for health insurance despite hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. And yet despite that acute memory of government failure, Oregonians want more government.

That is not just because of a predilection for socialist utopianism on the West Coast. It is because the costs of health insurance have been rising rapidly in Oregon, just as they have elsewhere. Insurance companies requested double-digit increases for 2018, and many insurance companies have withdrawn from markets in the state. People need immediate help in paying for insurance — and for health costs not covered under Obamacare’s high deductibles.

Republicans talk about repealing Obamacare, and conservative think tanks pump out free-market reform ideas that would, over time, lower costs. But the ordeal of Obamacare has soured the public on new policy experiments in health insurance. People just want relief now, even if they know the underlying problems remain.

Democrats promise more of other people’s money as the answer, and they are winning. Republicans, so far, promise nothing.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.