Oregon aggressively expanded its Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act, adding enough people to leave only 5 percent of its population uninsured — one of America’s lowest rates.

Now, with the reduction of a federal match that covered those enrollees, the state is calling on voters to decide how to pay for its ballooning Medicaid costs.

A special election on Tuesday asks Oregonians whether they approve of a tax on hospitals, health insurers and managed care companies that would leave Medicaid, as it is now, untouched. More than 1 in 4 residents here rely on it.

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Stepping toward the political center in a difficult election year, Gov. Scott Walker proposed using $200 million in state and federal money to stabilize the state’s Obamacare market and hold down rising insurance premiums.

While Republicans nationally talk about tax cuts, Wisconsin’s GOP governor has mixed in proposals on health care, the overhaul of a troubled youth prison and funding schools at levels proposed by a leading Democratic challenger.

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Congressional Republicans are hoping to pass a temporary funding bill that would keep the government open until mid-February, thus allowing negotiations to continue on immigration and other matters. To attract more support for the stop-gap bill, Republican leaders have proposed combining it with other unrelated and more popular provisions, including a two-year delay of the so-called “Cadillac tax.” Delaying the “Cadillac tax” again — it was already pushed back once — is a bad idea. It would set back the cause of market-driven health care rather than advance it.

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The House on Thursday night approved a stopgap measure to keep the government open less than 36 hours before a possible shutdown, shifting the drama to a Senate where Democrats are threatening to block the GOP bill.

The House measure includes a six-year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired at the end of September. States are at risk of running out of money to cover health care for children in low-income families.

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Because this exemption applies to employer-sponsored insurance but not individual coverage or out-of-pocket spending, it encourages group plans over consumer control. It should not be seen as sacred. However, the cap imposed by the Cadillac tax will become increasingly tight over time, which risks pushing Americans into public entitlements rather than empowering them as consumers. Policymakers should keep the Cadillac tax from biting too deeply — but a better way to end the tax bias toward employer-based plans would be to extend the tax exemption to health care that individuals purchase by themselves.
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Conservative policy experts and strategists continue to quietly meet and craft a legislative replacement for Obamacare, and with good reason.

People are hurting under the current broken system that denies individuals control over their own health decisions while hugely driving up their costs. Premiums have been rising by ungodly amounts (an average of 37 percent in 2018), while nearly one-third of all counties feature just a single insurer offering coverage in an Obamacare exchange.

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The U.S. government is seeking to further protect the “conscience and religious freedom” of health workers whose beliefs prevent them from carrying out abortions and other procedures, in an effort likely to please conservative Christian activists and other supporters of President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday it will create a division within its Office of Civil Rights to give it “the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom.”

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The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon advanced the nomination of Alex Azar to run HHS, putting him one step closer to heading a department that’s been in turmoil in the Trump administration’s first year.

The 15-12 vote, which fell largely along party lines, clears the way for a vote on the Senate floor to install Azar atop the sprawling health agency, which has been without a permanent leader since Tom Price’s resignation in September amid scrutiny of his use of charter jets.

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“The Trump administration’s action today is cruel,” said Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey. The new policy is “the latest salvo of the Trump administration’s war on health care,” according to a health-care advocacy group. “The pain is the point” of the policy, wrote columnist and economist Paul Krugman.

They were attacking the Trump administration’s decision last week to allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries. But far from being a “cruel” action designed to inflict “pain” on the vulnerable, the administration’s decision is completely reasonable.

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Sen. Lamar Alexander said he wants to add legislation to try to stabilize Obamacare’s insurance exchanges in a long-term spending deal, which Congress could pass as early as next month.

The comments from the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee come as Congress is nearing a government shutdown Friday, with no deal for a short-term spending deal. Senate GOP leadership and President Trump have committed to the Obamacare bills, but House GOP leadership has not.

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