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Universal Health Care: Put Measures on Oregon Ballot

Blog for Oregon
January 21, 2006
 link to www.blogfororegon.com

It is news to no one that our nation's health care system is broken. One could wonder whether our health care system even deserves to be called a "system" at all, when, in truth, health care in America is little more than a patchwork of public and private Band-Aids superficially applied over the past half-century to a patient dying for need of major surgery.
Unlikely though it may seem in ours the wealthiest nation on earth, one out of three citizens below the age of 65 lacked any sort of health insurance for all or part of 2003-2004, and the number of Americans without health insurance is growing, not declining. This in a nation that spends exceedingly more for health care per person and as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product than any other nation.
Uninsured Americans get about half the medical care of those with insurance. They receive too little care too late, get sicker, and die sooner -- the number of excess deaths among uninsured adults age 25-64 is estimated in the range of 18,000 per year. For all the great expense on "protecting the homeland", the lack of health insurance is killing many more Americans than terrorism likely ever will.

Americans deserve and want a better system. Here in Oregon, voters in 2006 could have two chances to voice their displeasure with the dysfunctional status quo, and demand something better. The first ballot initiative, which will be known as Ballot Measure 40 if supporters attract enough signatures, would make access to health care a basic right of all Oregonians, and direct the state legislature to come up with a plan to expand health care in the state.

Drafted by a bipartisan group of state legislators, including physician and Senator Alan Bates (D-Ashland), Representative Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), and Senator Ben Westlund (R-Bend), the HOPE initiative -- Healthcare Options Provided Efficiently -- would amend the state constitution to establish for the first time health care as a constitutional right. Additionally, if approved by voters in November, it will order the state legislature to develop a plan by July 1st, 2009 that would incrementally expand health care coverage so that every Oregon resident is able to obtain effective and affordable health care on a regular basis.

Measure 40 does not prescribe remedies for the sick health care system. It simply orders the state's elected lawmakers to work together to come up with a treatment plan. Most importantly, by establishing health care as an essential human right rather than a privilege based on income, passage of Measure 40 will make it clear that Oregonians recognize the injustice of leaving over 600,000 of their neighbors unprotected by health insurance. Fully three-quarters of Oregonians recently polled believe that health care is indeed an essential right.

If enough signatures are gathered to place it on the November ballot, Oregonians will also be asked to give consideration to Measure 111, designated the "Healthy Oregon Plan". This initiative spells out seven principles of sustainability that the 2007 Oregon legislature must follow while developing a plan by November 2008 to achieve universal health coverage for Oregonians. It does not amend the state constitution.

As with Measure 40, the chief petitioners of Measure 111 -- Dr. Evan Saulino, a Hillsboro physician, and Dominga Lopez, a Hillsboro nurse -- do not prescribe specific remedies to the state's health care crisis. Rather, they intend Measure 111 as a voter-approved order to the Oregon legislature to take action under specific guidelines to provide an affordable and sustainable health care system that works for all Oregonians.

Nothing in these initiatives will raise taxes or require that families with health insurance give up their existing coverage. Measure 40, in this writer's opinion, addresses the most pressing concern: acknowledging by enshrining within our state constitution that health care is a right, not a privilege. After all, one's income and wealth should not determine the amount and quality of care one receives. As Measure 40 declares, "health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity".

Once voters establish that health care is a right, only then will lawmakers take seriously their responsibility. The Oregon legislature has failed in recent sessions to fully appreciate the moral and political urgency of helping uninsured Oregonians, four out of five of which are working families. It is time lawmakers take action on health care. We need a universal and affordable system of health care -- available to everyone regardless of how much they earn, where they work, or even whether they have a job.

Waiting for action at the federal level will simply be too late. It's time for Oregonians to once again be the pioneers we've always been.

Want To Do More?
*Check out Measure 40, at  http://www.hopeoregon.org
*Check out Measure 111, at  http://www.healthyoregon.net
*Check out Physicians For A National Health Care Program, at  http://www.pnhp.org
*Check out Covered the Uninsured Week (May 1-7, 2006), at  http://www.covertheuninsuredweek.org
*Send this to every Oregonian you know.

Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and regular columnist for the Springfield (OR) News. He is also a regular contributor to the Portland (OR) Oregonian, Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, the University of Oregon Daily Emerald, the Washington Free Press (Seattle), the Columbus (OH) Free Press, and several progressive websites, including CommonDreams.org, PeacefulAssembly.org, and SelvesandOthers.org.

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They're NOT measures 40 and 111

On Sat, 01/21/2006 8:35pm Kari Chisholm said,

When these measures finally make it to the ballot (if they do), they will NOT be numbered 40 and 111. Those numbers are purely the internal 'paperwork' numbers from the Secretary of State's office. Do NOT make lawn signs, bumper stickers, or websites with those numbers.

I can't count how many times I've talked to initiative sponsors or opponents who are all hot to trot right now on creating "Yes on 87!" or "No on 87!" materials.

When the public finally starts paying attention, they will have bona fide measure numbers -- so don't start branding with these numbers.

homepage: homepage: http://hopeoregon.org