Oregon Voters May Decide on Health Care as a Right

SALEM, Ore. (CN) – Oregon could become the first state in the union that guarantees health care to its citizens as a constitutional right, if the state Senate sends a bill approved in the House of Representatives to place the issue before voters in November.

Oregon’s House voted 35-25 Tuesday to approve the bill, which would ask voters to decide on a constitutional amendment requiring the state to “ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, medically appropriate and affordable health care.”

The move came as the Trump administration takes steps to dismantle federally funded health care and former President Barack Obama’s landmark mandate requiring every citizen to acquire health care or pay a penalty.

“Having this go to the voters in November will reaffirm that and 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,” House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, told reporters.

If the state Senate approves the bill, and voters pass it into law in November, there will be a lot of details to work out including how the state will pay for the measure.

Kotek acknowledged that Tuesday, adding Tuesday’s vote was “primarily aspirational.”

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

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