The Oregon House voted Tuesday to refer a constitutional amendment to voters that would make health care a basic right.
If House Joint Resolution 203 clears the Legislature and voters approve it, the Oregon constitution would make it a fundamental right for every Oregonian to have access to effective, medically appropriate and affordable health care.
House Democrats voted for the idea, Republicans against it.
House member and dentist Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, said access to quality health care is a basic need, like food and water. But not a right.
“I believe health care is very important. It needs to be stable. But I also believe that our foster care system is important, our education system is important, our environment is important, and the jobs that we create for Oregonians are important,” he said.
“Clearly, we all want Oregonians to have access to basic health care services, but to advance a constitutional amendment that has the potential to radically change our state in ways we do not yet understand strikes me as incredibly risky.”
About 95 percent of Oregonians already have health insurance.
Democrats have tried to make it 100 percent. But they say after President Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, now is the time to let voters decide.
“Everyone deserves access to affordable health care,” said Diane Solomon with the Oregon Nurses Association.
“Oregon has led health care innovations for decades and we can’t go back. It’s time to move forward to expand health care access and protect basic rights for all Oregonians.”
Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, is championing the effort. “I am so proud of the work that has been done over the last three decades to get Oregon to a place where only five percent of people are uninsured,” he said.
“Still, there is work to be done. Health care is a fundamental right, and it is my hope that one day, every Oregonian will have the coverage that they have a fundamental right to.”