Oregon Considers First Universal Health Plan

October 9, 2002

Oregon may become the first state to provide a universal medical insurance plan to its citizens under a Nov. 5 ballot measure, according to the Associated Press.

If passed, Oregonians would receive full health insurance with no co-payments and no deductibles.

A spokesman for the Health Care for All Oregon campaign, the sponsor of Measure 23, said that the current health care system in Oregon is in a state of crisis. He further estimated that 423,000 of Oregon’s 3.3 million residents are uninsured.

The proposed plan would be funded by taxpayers-via a new payroll tax of almost 11.5 percent on businesses, and an increase on personal income taxes as much as 17 percent.

Among some of the benefits included in the plan are massage and acupuncture services, along with basic medical care.

The spokesman for Health Care for All Oregon estimated the cost at $19 billion a year, with $7 billion being covered by payroll taxes, and $4.9 billion by higher income taxes. The remaining costs would be funded by shifting state and federal health care funds to the universal plan.

Measure 23 is facing opposition from businesses, the insurance industry, and the health care industry, all who feel the plan will encourage excessive spending, and perhaps create an unstable economy.

Another concern is the residency requirements for Oregonians-opponents fear that people will move to Oregon just to take advantage of the medical benefits. Also, the measure does not contain any limits on coverage and does not state any exclusions for experimental procedures or devices.

However, supporters of the measure hope that it’s passage will encourage other states to follow suit. A 15-member state board will be created to oversee the program and to make revisions to the plan.

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