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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 03 September 2008

(AP) — Next year, the Oregon Legislature may consider expanding a medical provider tax to pay for health insurance for children and 100,000 low-income adults.
The idea is coming from a committee the Legislature named. A draft of its plan is expected this week. Public hearings are planned after that.
Meanwhile, Rep. Chip Shields, D-N/NE Portland, issued a call this week for residents of North and Northeast Portland to participate in a town hall forum hosted by the Oregon Health Fund Board, Monday, Sept. 8 at the Oregon Convention Center. 
The event, one of 10 statewide community town hall forums hosted by the board, runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
The Oregon Health Fund Board was created by SB 329, the Healthy Oregon Act, during 2007 Legislative session.  Rep. Shields helped pass the bill through his participation in Joint Ways & Means Committee.
Comprised of seven citizen members appointed by the Governor, the Oregon Health Fund Board is working to develop affordable quality health care for every Oregonian.  The board is seeking feedback and input on its plan. 
It is expected to present its final plan to the Governor in November, and the Oregon Legislative Assembly for consideration in the upcoming 2009 session.
For more information about the community town hall forums and the Oregon Health Fund Board, visit: http://healthfundboard.oregon.gov/.  Rep. Shields' district office can be reached at 503-231-2564.
As for the proposed health provider tax, the plan would provide insurance for about a third of the state's uninsured, who now number about 621,000. Oregon's cost would be more than matched by federal funds.
It would add insurers and outpatient surgical centers to a tax that now applies to hospitals and Medicaid managed care providers.
Last year, voters rejected a tobacco tax whose proceeds would have paid for health insurance for 117,000 children who lack it.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski supports the proposal, and some legislative leaders think it has a better than 50 percent chance of passing in the 2009 Legislature.
Kerry Sessler, 50, of Portland would be among those to benefit. She cannot afford health insurance and has not been to a doctor in four years.
A social worker for three decades, Sessler sold her house and put everything she owned into her food business, My Sister's Soup, which she operates out of a cart in Sellwood. She said she works 12 hours a day, six days a week and last year had an income of only $6,000, well below the federal poverty level of $10,400. She also gets some family support.
"I don't know what I will do if I get sick," said Sessler, who has a master's degree in Irish studies. "It is very scary. I was hoping at this point I'd be able to at least buy a catastrophic policy, but I just don't have the money. "
The board will present a final plan to legislative leaders in November.
The money would insure more children and more adults, improve Oregon Health Plan benefits and increase rates the Oregon Health Plan pays for medical services.

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