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Measure 111 could make Oregon the first state to ensure health care access for all

A measure on the November ballot will have Oregonians voting on health care. If passed, Measure 111 would amend the state constitution to ensure health care access.

SALEM, Oregon — A measure on the November ballot in Oregon will have people voting on health care. If passed, Measure 111 would amend the state constitution to make Oregon the first state in the country to ensure health care access for all.

Proponents of Oregon Measure 111 said it's straightforward in terms of the importance of access to health care.

According to the state's voter pamphlet, a ‘yes' vote “requires state to ensure affordable healthcare access. State must balance healthcare funding against funding for schools, other essential services; courts must respect balance."

Codifying health care for all in Oregon has been an effort that has been raised and has failed numerous times in the state legislature. It got onto the Nov. 8 ballot because the Legislature, where Democrats hold a majority, referred the issue to voters last year.

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Hannah Winchester is a physical therapist and active member of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.

“I think Measure 111 is a really great way to reaffirm the goal that every Oregonian should have access to quality and appropriate health care,” Winchester said. 

Opponents of the measure said it's too vague and does not protect the state financially in terms of the cost of guaranteeing health care access, or the risk of being sued if it fails to do so.

Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod wrote in opposition of the measure saying, "This bill promises something that democrats know they can't deliver. The bill doesn't fund any system to deliver on that promise."

State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, a health care professional and the main sponsor of the bill, wrote in support, "If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that without access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, our communities cannot thrive."

If the measure passes, Winchester knows there will be details to work out, but adds, "I think it's really important to very succinctly and very clearly state that goal that health care is a human right, and it should be awarded to every single person in Oregon.”

Democratic candidate for governor Tina Kotek supports the initiative and says its goal is “primarily aspirational.”

Republican candidate Christine Drazan opposes Measure 111 because of potential budgetary impacts. Unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson voted against the bill when she was a state senator but says she'll implement the mandate if Oregonians approve it and it is financially feasible.

RELATED: Oregon candidates for governor on COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students

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