Workers organize ballots to be tallied at the Douglas County Elections Office on May 16, 2017.

The Douglas County Elections Office mailed out 74,929 ballots last week for the Jan. 23 special election. As of Wednesday afternoon, 7,225 ballots, 9.6 percent, had been returned, according to Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt.

Anyone who hasn’t yet received a ballot should contact the Douglas County Elections Office. The office can be reached by phone at 541-440-4252 or in Room 124 in the Douglas County Courthouse, 1036 SE Douglas Ave., Roseburg.

This year’s special election includes just one item. Measure 101 asks voters whether they approve or disapprove of House Bill 2391, the system worked out by the state legislature to fund Oregon Health Plan patients.

The bill would charge health insurers and hospitals to continue OHP coverage for about 350,000 people who were added to the rolls under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Supporters call the charge a fee and opponents call it a tax.

They include about 12,000 Douglas County residents who are either poor, disabled or seniors who can’t afford long-term nursing home care. Hospitals would be charged an additional 0.7 percent on top of an existing 5.3 percent assessment fee, while insurance companies would pay a new 1.5 percent fee. Supporters note the insurers and hospitals have agreed to pay the fee. They say without it, patients who could have received cheaper preventive care if they had insurance will wind up in the emergency room, driving up health care costs for everyone. They also say health care jobs will be lost if the measure fails.

Opponents call the fee an unfair tax that will be passed through to individuals and small businesses, but not to large corporations that can either self insure or bargain for better agreements with insurers. They argue the new system would create a permanent tax regardless of the number of patients, with no guarantee that if caseloads drop, the money will stick with the OHP program.

Ballots are due back by 8 p.m. Jan. 23. Postage is required for mailed ballots, and they must be received by the deadline. A Jan. 23 postmark isn’t enough. Ballots may also be dropped in one of the official ballot drop boxes around the county or at the elections office.

Drop boxes are located on the front lawn of the courthouse and at the following locations: Canyonville City Hall, 250 N Main St.; the Douglas County Annex, 680 Fir Street, Reedsport; the Douglas County Library east parking lot on the corner of Fowler Street and Diamond Lake Boulevard in Roseburg; Glendale City Hall, 124 Third St.; Myrtle Creek City Hall, 207 N.W. Pleasant St.; Sutherlin City Hall, 126 E. Central Ave.; Umpqua Community College Library, 1140 Umpqua College Rd., Roseburg; Winston City Hall, 201 N.W. Douglas Blvd; and Yoncalla City Hall, 2640 Eagle Valley Road.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at ccegavske@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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