Oregon voters have approved a measure that recognizes health care as a human right.
The passing of Measure 111 makes Oregon the first state in the nation to add the right to affordable health care to its state constitution.
“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,” the amendment reads.
The amendment does not define what is “affordable” or who will pay for the expenses involved in providing health care to Oregon residents.
Approximately 94% of Oregonians have health insurance coverage, according to the Oregon Health Authority, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Additional residents are eligible for the state’s Medicaid plan or a subsidy to reduce the cost of medical insurance.
Measure 111 passed in a narrow victory, with just 50.6% of Oregonians supporting the measure, representing 894,521 voters. A total of 49.4% opposed, representing 871,653 votes, for a narrow victory of 22,868 votes.
The votes in favor of the health care measure were highest in areas where Democrats had the strongest turnout, including Portland, Eugene, and surrounding areas. Multnomah County, where Portland is located, strongly supported Measure 111 with 69% of voters in favor of the amendment.
The measure was a longtime project of Mitch Greenlick, who served as a state Democratic lawmaker until he died in 2020. Greenlick attempted to pass it eight times in 16 years, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, with fellow lawmakers referring the measure to the state’s ballot to honor his efforts.
Opponents have expressed concern that the amendment could pose numerous challenges. Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod (R) voted against it in the state legislature prior to its placement on the ballot.
“This bill promises something that Democrats know they can’t deliver. The bill doesn’t fund any system to deliver on that promise,” he said ahead of the midterms. “If Democrats are serious about giving Oregonians free health care, they should come up with an actual plan. This kind of lazy policymaking lacks important details Oregon voters need to make an informed decision at the ballot box.”
Democrats like state Rep. Andrea Salinas expressed strong support for Measure 111.
“We need to send this to the voters because of the unpredictability of the future of health care at the federal level. The marketplace needs some stability, and the state of Oregon needs a path forward. We don’t need better insurance instruments, we need better access to health care,” she said.
In addition to Measure 111, Oregon voters also narrowly passed a gun law called Measure 114 that will require residents to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm, bans most large-capacity magazines over 10 rounds, and authorizes a state firearms database. The large-capacity ban does not apply to current owners, law enforcement, or military personnel.