States Explore Universal Coverage Options, Oregon Puts Issue on November Ballot
The Business Journal of Portland on Sept. 6 examined actions considered by several states to implement universal care systems. During the November elections, Oregon residents will vote on the only universal health care initiative in the country (Herochik, Business Journal of Portland, 9/6). Measure 23, or the Oregon Comprehensive Health Care Finance Act of 2002, would implement a system to cover "all medically necessary health services," from medications to mental health services and long-term care, for all state residents. The ballot initiative would expand the state's public health program, the Oregon Health Plan, to cover all residents and would create two new taxes to help fund the expansion (Herochik, Business Journal of Portland, 9/6). States such as California, Maine, Massachusetts and Illinois are also investigating ways to fund universal health care systems, searching out legislative sponsors, obtaining federal waivers and looking at ways to scale back the cost of prescription drugs and long-term care. For example, a pending bill that will come up for a vote in the Massachusetts Senate next year would offer "comprehensive coverage" for all state residents and would be funded by current state and federal monies and an additional sales tax on "products that increase health care costs." In addition, California in 1999 passed a bill requiring a study of universal care models, and Maine activists are calling for an annual report from the Portland Department of Health and Human Services on pending universal health care proposals. Last year, Maine failed to pass legislation that would have required implementation of a single-payer system by 2003, and Illinois was unable to pass a bill that would oversee "input gathering" for a universal health plan. The Illinois measure will be introduced again next year. On the federal level, a bill called the "States' Right to Innovation in Health Care Act of 2000," which is still in committee, would amend the Social Security Act to provide grants to states for the development of universal care systems (Business Journal of Portland, 9/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.