Civil Discourse Op-Ed: Ballot Measure 111

White board set up in Takena Hall, filled with student responses to Measure 111

The Civil Discourse Program, facilitated by Communications Professor Mark Urista, has taken on another incredibly relevant and timely issue. The Oregon Ballot Measure 111 refers to the Right to Healthcare Amendment, and if passed in the November 8 election, would make Oregon the first state with a constitutional right to healthcare. But what would the implications be on our economy? The Civil Discourse Program has taken on both sides of the measure.

Vote “Yes” on Measure 111

Authors: Cheyanne Rider, Eliana Ortega, and The Civil Discourse Program

Oregonians have many issues to think about as we approach Election Day on November 8th. One is whether our state’s constitution should declare healthcare as a fundamental right. Oregon’s healthcare systems are not perfect so we need to think about the first steps this measure would take, how it will affect the people we know, and the rights Oregonians deserve to have.

Measure 111 would add the following language to Article I of the Oregon Constitution:

(1) It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.

(2) The obligation of the state described in subsection (1) of this section must be balanced against the public interest in funding public schools and other essential public services, and any remedy arising from an action brought against the state to enforce the provisions of this section may not interfere with the balance described in this subsection.

Passing Measure 111 would reframe and reprioritize healthcare in Oregon, giving legislators a solid foundation to create policies that get us closer to universal healthcare.  For these reasons, you should vote “Yes” on this measure.

Under our current system, too many people are forced to choose between their health and paying their bills. The cost of healthcare has skyrocketed in the last several years making the choice to seek care a difficult one. In Benton County, the average median income is $26.9k.  However, for a single person to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, they cannot make more than $18,075 per year.  The qualification requirements are pretty slim and even if someone can qualify for OHP it doesn’t mean they will be given quality care. This is evident by numerous comments written on our Civil Discourse Board in Takena Hall in response to the question: “How will you vote on Measure 111?” One person wrote, “Yes, because my dad works with people who often don’t have health care or have minimal coverage. His patients have diabetes and heart disease among other things and they often can’t pay for drugs like insulin that they need to live.” While voting yes on Measure 111 might not immediately benefit Oregonians, in the future, it might give one of your peers or fellow community members the ability to survive at an affordable cost.

A yes vote for Measure 111 is a step in the right direction for a healthier state. It declares an outcome that Oregon would be committed to achieving in the future. All Oregonians deserve not only life-saving treatments, but basic health checkups and preventative health care. This includes a woman’s right to choose, as well as their right to not be forced to carry a nonviable fetus. Every human being deserves affordable, ethical, and equitable healthcare. Measure 111 will move Oregon closer to making this a reality.

Vote “No” on Measure 111

Authors: Eagle Hunt, Jacob Pacheco, and The Civil Discourse Program

While establishing affordable healthcare as a fundamental right sounds appealing, in practice it will likely have many unintended consequences. Passing Measure 111 will amend the Oregon Constitution to address a problem that is not clearly articulated. Further, it does not address how funding will be provided and poses a threat to other essential public services. Ultimately, the vagueness in the measure’s language is enough of a reason to vote “no.”

First, it’s important to recognize that accessing healthcare is better now than it has ever been in Oregon. According to The Oregon Health Authority, 94% of Oregonians already have health insurance. Any Oregonian that wants healthcare can get it. In the Corvallis area, the cheapest healthcare plan for someone in their 20’s is around $180 a month. If that is too expensive, the Oregon Medicaid system offers benefits to those making less than $18,075/year. Offering affordable healthcare is already a top priority for Oregon’s state government. It also is federal law. The Affordable Care Act, passed a little over 12 years ago, offers many solutions to modern individuals and families struggling to purchase health insurance. These include:

  • Young people staying on their parent’s insurance until they are 26
  • Government subsidies for those who are struggling financially
  • Expansion of Medicaid (Oregon Health Plan) to low-income individuals and households

If there are problems with people accessing affordable healthcare, changes can be made to what currently exists without the passage of a constitutional amendment that disrupts the healthcare system.

Another problem with Measure 111 is that it relies heavily on vague language to describe what it will do. “Affordable,” “balanced,” “access,” and “healthcare” are all used to portray the goals of Measure 111, but what do they entail? The funding for healthcare will now be “balanced” with other services like K-12 Education and Public Safety. What ratio would this be? Is that 50-50, 40-60, 70-30? How much more strain will Measure 111 add to Oregon’s economy? What will it do to inflation? Finally, what qualifies as healthcare? What exactly will this measure add to the mix of our current healthcare system that makes it so valuable as to change the constitution? Without specificity, we’re leaving it to politicians to define these terms. 

Another unintended consequence to consider is the impact Measure 111 can have on Oregon’s public school system. Currently, funding for our state’s K-12 system is ranked well below the national average, student test scores have significantly decreased post-pandemic, and more teachers need to be recruited for an increasingly diverse student population. These are all issues that require significant funds to address. Measure 111 poses a direct threat to public schools receiving the money they need.  

As much as we may love the idea of healthcare being a human right, we must consider the very real risks of passing Measure 111. There is no guarantee that the proposed constitutional amendment will come through on its promise. Measure 111 simply does not provide enough details to support its passage.

%d bloggers like this: