Editor's note: Twelve measures face voters on the Nov. 5 ballot. The Blue Mountain Eagle will feature abbreviated endorsements for all 12 measures in the Oct. 16 issue (ballots are mailed to voters Oct. 18). The "endorsement issue" also will feature our positions on candidates. However, due to their importance, the Eagle would like to explore two of the initiatives in the next two weeks. The first is Measure 23, the Oregon Comprehensive Health Care Finance Plan. The second is Measure 27, which calls for labeling of genetically engineered foods. This week, Measure 23 is the topic of our editorial. Next week, the Eagle will look at Measure 27.
Measure 23 resembles many ballot initiatives, in that it touches a nerve with voters by exposing a problem but fails to provide a rational solution. We urge voters to mark "no" on their ballots next to Measure 23.
The Oregon Comprehensive Health Care Finance Plan would take a bad situation and make it much, much worse. The bad situation is the out-of-control cost for health insurance. However, the medicine for this particular ailment, as proposed in this ballot measure, would prove disastrous to Oregon.
"We feel that health care is a human right. Basically, we come from that point," says proponent Dr. John Partridge, a retired doctor of internal medicine from Portland with 56 years of experience in his field.
With all due respect to Dr. Partridge, approaching health care as a human right makes for bad public policy. The implication is that every citizen is entitled to health insurance no matter what the cost. This same ethic infuses Measure 23 with all kinds of ambitions but very little realism.
Measure 23 would cost as much as $20 billion, by proponents' own estimates, through accrual of speculative administration-related savings and by assessing a new payroll tax of 11.5 percent and raising income taxes up to as much as 8 percent of income in order to insure all Oregonians. Oregonians Against Unhealthy Taxes write: "Implementing Measure 23 would require the largest tax increase in Oregon history. The new 11.5 percent payroll on employers and highest-in-the-nation income taxes would hurt Oregon's weak economy, trigger layoffs and closures."
"It doesn't compute that you can have it all for the same money," argues Mike Becker, vice president of public policy and community affairs for Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon. He is attacking the central premise of Measure 23, that the state can run our health-care system for the same amount of money that currently flows through private companies.
Becker has only scratched the surface.
"This system will dwarf state government," he argues. "What does that do to our education system? What does that do to the bridges and needed infrastructure in this state?"
Health Care for All-Oregon, the coalition supporting Measure 23, reasons that larger trends will work themselves out. Max Wilkins points out that the pharmaceutical industry spends twice as much on advertising as it does on research. How will creating socialized medicine stop this national trend?
"We will apply for and hope to get a waiver for Medicare," Wilkins adds, asserting that 37.8 percent of health care needs would be met through a Medicare waiver.
A waiver is the least of our worries if this measure passes. Consider a devastated economy. Consider an insatiable demand for broadly defined health care from citizens, both those living in state and those flocking here to kill this golden goose.
"What we're trying to do is provide health care for all residents of Oregon," says Dr. Partridge.
That's a noble goal, but voters will bite off more than they can chew if they pass Measure 23.
"I don't know of any business owner that would take this measure lying down," says J.L. Wilson, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Measure 23 supporters may kill us with kind intentions. In Wilson's words, "Hey, your company moved, you lost your job, you lost your doctor but you got free health care."
And as Becker concluded, "If you think health care is costly now, just wait until it's free."
Vote no on Measure 23.