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Our view: Rights and aspirations

Published on February 19, 2018 5:20PM

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2013 file photo, the Oregon Senate recites the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the 77th Oregon Legislature taking the oath of office in Salem, Ore. The Oregon Senate’s health committee will assess a bill passed by the House that would enshrine a right to health care in the state Constitution. Senate President Peter Courtney assigned the measure, which aims to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for Oregon voters in the November election, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2014, a day after the House approved it along party lines.(AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2013 file photo, the Oregon Senate recites the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the 77th Oregon Legislature taking the oath of office in Salem, Ore. The Oregon Senate’s health committee will assess a bill passed by the House that would enshrine a right to health care in the state Constitution. Senate President Peter Courtney assigned the measure, which aims to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for Oregon voters in the November election, on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2014, a day after the House approved it along party lines.(AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

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Last week, the Oregon House speedily passed a measure that would give Oregonians the ability to amend the state constitution to make health care a right for all state residents.

The proposal (HJR 203) had a public hearing in the Senate on Monday. If it passes that august body, it would appear on the ballot in the November general election.

The amendment reads: “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.”

Sounds good at first offing. But if a majority of Oregonians support the measure, does anyone know what that would mean?

Not currently.

There are many questions and few answers about what effect the law would have, and even its proponents call it “aspirational” rather than a concrete proposal to improve health care in the state.

We’re not sure “aspirational” has any place in the state Constitution. Aspirations were for the Declaration of Independence, but the federal Constitution was a place to lay down guarantees for all Americans — promises that the government had to live up to or find it askance of the law.

Our legislators should always be looking at ways to make health care cheaper and better for Oregonians, but consider us unwilling to jump aboard a train that has little clue where it’s headed.

We want our constitution to be as free from unknown legal requirements as possible — and especially on something as important as health care. We want to be clear and concise, so we know our rights and we know what the state must do.

The pushback on this bill — even in liberal and progressive corners — has been swift. There is no appetite for taxpayers to force Oregon to pick up a check when no one is quite sure what has been ordered.

Let’s wait until we know what we’re buying. And even then, let’s order à la carte by paying for preventative health care — mammograms and colonoscopies and well-child checkups and subsidized insurance — instead of the overpriced emergency care.



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