By ANDREW SELSKY
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…