Oregon legislature passes bill proposing health care as a human right, sending issue to the ballot

The Oregon House of Representatives passed the resolution on Tuesday, ensuring that it will appear on the ballot in 2022.

Posted: May 19, 2021 2:37 PM

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon House of Representatives passed a resolution on Tuesday proposing that health care is a human right, sending the matter on to voters for final ratification.

Originally dubbed the "HOPE Amendment," Senate Joint Resolution 12 proposes to amend the Oregon constitution by declaring that every resident of the state has a right to affordable health care. Proposals to amend the Oregon constitution have to be ratified by voters in order to take effect, so the matter will appear on ballots in the 2022 general election.

“We need to send this to the voters because of the unpredictability of the future of health care at the federal level,” said Democratic Representative Andrea Salinas, who co-carried the bill on the House floor. “The marketplace needs some stability and the state of Oregon needs a path forward. We don’t need better insurance instruments, we need better access to health care.”

SJR 12 passed the House in a 34-23 vote, and was previously approved by the Senate. Republican lawmakers have broadly opposed the resolution, saying that it comes without a clear system to deliver on its promise while promising "utopian" healthcare coverage.

The proposed amendment itself is relatively simple. It would change Article I of the Oregon constitution, adding a subsection that says the state is obligated to ensure that state residents have access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate, and affordable healthcare "as a fundamental right."

Pursuing satisfaction of that right must be balanced against the public interest for funding schools and other public services, the proposed amendment reads.

“Burdensome medical bills, or medical conditions that go untreated because of a lack of financial resources, cause great strain to families and individuals all over this state,” said Rep. Rob Nosse, the bill’s other co-carrier. “They hold people back, causing them to forego starting a business, getting an education, buying a home, or having children. This amendment is a practical and sober statement of what the people of this state need.”

Because the proposed amendment adds healthcare as a fundamental right but does not posit how best to achieve that end, it's unclear what the outcome would look like. It could take the form of greatly expanded eligibility for the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program, but the resolution — if passed by voters — undoubtedly lays the groundwork for future political debate and legislation on the topic.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah51245642
Washington34995276
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Douglas10712188
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Polk623570
Malheur479467
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Coos412069
Columbia324237
Jefferson313746
Lincoln276330
Union272737
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Crook212338
Clatsop211725
Tillamook181523
Baker174421
Morrow167921
Curry166817
Hood River163035
Harney78916
Grant7558
Lake6768
Wallowa50811
Gilliam1374
Sherman1283
Wheeler651
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San Joaquin973871615
Contra Costa95727924
Stanislaus806991234
Tulare72969896
San Mateo52239607
San Francisco51907605
Monterey49465565
Solano44151312
Santa Barbara43112500
Sonoma39441378
Merced39370535
Placer36487364
Imperial34261755
Kings30124284
San Luis Obispo28300313
Madera21707258
Butte21307230
Shasta20683276
Santa Cruz20151211
Yolo19143239
Marin17106242
El Dorado16004127
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Napa1226895
Yuba926061
Nevada847685
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San Benito709067
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