BY RACHEL PRUSAK
As a nurse of 20 years, I was truly disappointed to read The Oregonian’s July 22 editorial about Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, and her efforts to roll back parts of the Oregon Healthcare Protections Bill (House Bill 2391). If Parrish and the Republicans backing Referendum 301 succeed, it would jeopardize funding that 375,000 Oregonians rely on to pay for Medicaid, threaten health insurance coverage in rural Oregon and likely increase premiums for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians. It’s callous, retaliatory politics, and it’s a betrayal of the Oregon families whose health and well-being is at stake.
Leading a referendum to repeal health care coverage for 350,000 people without a clear, viable plan to replace it is strikingly Trump-like. That The Oregonian/OregonLive editorial board failed to make that connection is surprising, but Oregon families know better. The Healthcare Protections Bill safeguards coverage for the more than 350,000 Oregonians who received health insurance for the first time under the Affordable Care Act, and it decreases premiums by 6 percent for those who purchase insurance on their own.
We cannot, as The Oregonian has done, ignore the imminent federal threats to health care. The political malpractice that Trump and the national GOP continue to engage in could leave millions without health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, including nearly half a million Oregonians. It’s clear that even after the Senate defeated the so-called “skinny repeal,” the threat to health care is not over. This should heighten the urgency to protect Oregonians’ care, not gamble with it.
There’s good reason that the Healthcare Protections Bill had the full support of a bipartisan workgroup and dozens of health and advocacy groups. It’s a smart policy that protects Oregonians’ health care while also making it more affordable for hundreds of thousands of families. It’s exactly the type of forward-thinking health policy that ensured 95 percent of Oregonians today have health care. We cannot afford to slide backward and leave Oregon families one broken ankle or unexpected illness away from crippling medical debt. As a nurse, I’ve seen first-hand the difference that the Affordable Care Act has made: My patients receive the preventative primary and palliative care they need and deserve rather than costly care in the emergency room. With access to affordable healthcare, patients have become empowered to make better decisions about their health as opposed to putting off the care they so desperately need.
I hope in future pieces that the editorial board will heed its own call — facts do matter. And this pivotal one was sadly absent: Parrish is eager to repeal parts of the Oregon Healthcare Protections Bill, but she has yet to put forward a balanced-budget plan that would achieve the same goal of protecting the 350,000 low-income Oregonians whose health care is at stake.A plan to repeal Oregonians’ health care without a viable plan to replace it is dangerous, reckless, and, yes, straight out of Trump’s playbook. Oregon leaders have a choice: Kick hundreds of thousands of Oregonians — like my patients — off their health insurance, or allow insurance companies and hospitals who supported HB2391 to pay their fair share. I believe that choice is clear!
Rachel Prusak lives in Northeast Portland.