Oregon House OKs health care as a right, funding questionedFebruary 13, 2018 11:37pm

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's Legislature took a step Tuesday toward enshrining the right to health care in the state Constitution, a move that would be unprecedented in the United States but raises serious funding questions.

The House of Representatives' 35-25 endorsement of the bill sends it to the state Senate, whose approval would put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for Oregon voters in the November election. The move comes as the Trump administration has tried to dismantle former President Barack Obama's health care law.

If the Senate passes the bill, voters would be asked to consider amending the state's 160-year-old Constitution to declare: "It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, medically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right."

Oregon is one of the most liberal U.S. states and was the first sanctuary state protecting immigrants in the country illegally and the first to legalize suicide for the terminally ill. The state also expanded coverage on abortions and other reproductive services regardless of income, citizenship status or gender identity. Both chambers of the Oregon Legislature are controlled by Democrats.

Amending the constitution to establish health care as a right would also be a first, according to Richard Cauchi of the National Conference of State Legislatures, who specializes in health and related issues.

"Some states have an extensive history of considering universal health coverage, going back 15 to 20 or more years," Cauchi said. "However, no such binding ballot question language has been passed and added to a state constitution."

A measure has been introduced in both houses of the Maryland General Assembly that would establish "Healthy Maryland" as a public corporation and state government unit "to provide comprehensive universal health coverage for every Maryland resident." A hearing is scheduled for March 7 on the Senate bill.

In 2014, then Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, ended an initiative to develop a single-payer healthcare system in his state. An analysis had predicted new taxes of 11.5 percent for employers and up to 9.5 percent for individuals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In California, a single-payer plan supported by some Democrats was spiked last year by other Democrats because the cost would have been astronomical.

Those who spoke out in favor of the Oregon bill on the House floor Tuesday said no Oregonian should lack access to medical care, but opponents said there is no plan to fund making health care access a right and warned that doing so would make the state vulnerable to lawsuits.

His voice frail, Rep. Mitch Greenlick described how he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2005, and relied on insurance to pay huge treatment costs.

"If I didn't have insurance, I wouldn't be here," the Democrat from Portland said. "I would be dead."

He urged lawmakers to pass the bill as "a moral decision."

Rep. Paul Evans, a Democrat, said "if the people decide they want it, it's our responsibility to try come together and make it happen."

Rep. Mike McLane, the House Republican leader, highlighted the uncertainties about how health care would be funded in Oregon.

"What's been said today is there is no plan. We have no idea how much it will cost," McLane said.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, told reporters Monday that putting the Hope Amendment, as it is nicknamed, before Oregon voters in November would "send an important value statement about the importance of health care, particularly as you see at the federal level there are a lot of efforts to scale back Medicaid and Medicare."

Kotek said the goal of the legislation is "primarily aspirational" and that if the ballot measure passes, details would still need to be worked out about the state's health care commitments.

Asked if a person could sue the state if the constitutional amendment passes and they are denied seeing a medical specialist, Kotek said that is unclear.

"Somewhere down the line that will be someone else's conversation," she said. "I think whenever you put anything into the Oregon Constitution, it sets a framework of future effort."

The bill is scheduled for a first reading in the Senate on Wednesday. A spokesman for Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, declined to comment when asked if Courtney has a position on the bill.

___

Associated Press Writer Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, contributed to this story.

___

Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

Senators want to bolster research of organic agricultureA pair of U.S. senators is introducing legislation designed to improve organic farming research
CORRECTS SPELLING OF SCHOOL NAME FROM MAJORITY STONEMAN DOUGLAS TO MARJORY STONEMAN - Crosses and flowers hang on a fence near  Marjory Stoneman Douglas  INParkland, Fla., on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2018, in memory of the 17 people killed in a school shooting on Wednesday.  As families began burying their dead, authorities questioned whether they could have prevented the attack at the high school where a gunman, Nikolas Cruz, took several lives. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Florida legislators struggle with how to respond to shooting
FILE - In this June 13, 2017, file photo, Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, right, discusses the state budget in Sacramento, Calif. In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill by Ting that would have expanded the list of those who can seek gun violence restraining orders to include, among others, employees of high schools and colleges. The school shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018, that killed at least 17 people, has revived the debate about red flag laws. Ting said he plans to reintroduce the bill.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File)
Democrats, Rubio want 'red flags' to enable gun seizures
President Donald Trump, center, accompanied by and first lady Melania Trump, right, and Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, left, speak to reporters while visiting with medical staff at Broward Health North in Pompano Beach, Fla., Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, following Wednesday's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Latest: Trump visits hospital, meets shooting survivors
The Latest: New Mexico ex-senator gets 18 months in prisonA former New Mexico state senator convicted of fraud, bribery and felony ethical violations stemming from allegations that he used his position for personal gain has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Study of 'Alcohol czar' idea pushed after vote canceledIt appears to be closing time, at least for now, on creating a powerful "alcohol czar" to enforce Wisconsin beer and liquors laws and regulations
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices