The president of Oregon's Senate on Wednesday told a committee headed by a retired nurse who's bullish on public health care to consider a bill that asks voters to amend the state Constitution to make health care a fundamental right.
Senate President Peter Courtney referred the bill to the Senate committee on health care a day after the House approved it along party lines, with Democrats voting yes and Republicans no in the 35-25 vote Tuesday. The health care panel has three Democrats and two Republicans.
If the Democratic-dominated Senate also passes the bill, Oregonians will vote in the November election to endorse or reject an amendment to the state's 160-year-old Constitution that says: "It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, medically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right."
Making health care a constitutional right would be a first among all states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The move comes as the Trump administration has tried to dismantle former President Barack Obama's health care law and endorsed Republican bills to repeal expansion of Medicaid.
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Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, a Democrat who chairs the Senate health care committee, says she wants to improve Oregon's health care system, expanding access to quality and affordable care for families and small business owners.
"As the price of health care spirals out of control, too many Oregonians lack the means to access even basic health services," she wrote on her official web page.
Sen. Alan DeBoer, a Republican who is new on the committee, has said that while in theory he supports single-payer health insurance, he opposes the effort to amend the Constitution.
"It'll break the state," he recently told The Lund Report, a news web site which reports on health issues.
The bill's opponents have pointed out there is no funding plan that guarantees access to health care and warned that amending the Constitution would make the state vulnerable to lawsuits.
Those who spoke out in favor of the bill on the House floor Tuesday said no Oregonian should lack access to medical care.