Oregon voters back taxes on hospitals, insurance premiums to cover Medicaid costs

Medicaid on paper and a stethoscope
The taxes aim to raise funds to cover Medicaid costs in Oregon. (Getty/designer491)

Oregon voters have approved taxes on healthcare companies that would help cover costs for the state's Medicaid program. 

The taxes were easily passed in a special election held Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Oregon aggressively expanded its Medicaid enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, and the state now boasts one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country, 5%. 

Measure 101 will impose a 0.7% tax on some hospitals and 1.5% tax on gross health insurance premiums collected by payers and managed care organizations. The taxes seek to raise between $210 million and $320 million over the next two years to continue covering people who enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program. 

Hospitals and insurers in Oregon backed the measure, as the state stood to lose between $630 million and $960 million in matching federal funds without the additional revenue. Supporters said that 350,000 Oregonians could lose Medicaid coverage without that federal match, and the costs of treating the uninsured outstripped the cost of the taxes, the AP reported. 

RELATED: Medicaid expansion cuts uncompensated care costs 

Some Republicans in the state criticized parts of the tax plan that exempted unions and large, self-insured corporations while charging people who purchase insurance on the ACA exchanges, according to the article. GOP state legislators have also expressed concern that hospitals and payers will pass the cost of the taxes on to consumers. 

In other Medicaid news: 

Top Medicaid official to leave CMS in February 

Brian Neale, the deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, will leave his post next month, The Hill reported

CMS Administrator Seema Verma informed staff of Neale's departure in an email Tuesday, according to the article. It's not immediately clear why Neale, who oversees the Medicaid program, is leaving or where he is headed. 

Neale is leaving CMS as the agency is allowing states to test Medicaid work requirements, a policy he guided and supported.