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Measure 106 takes aim at a pillar of Oregon’s health care structures and economy

Commentary
October 17, 2018By Janet Bauer

The Oregon Health Plan is one of the health care and economic pillars of our state, offering residents who don’t get health insurance through their job the opportunity of a healthy and productive life. The Oregon Health Plan enables more than a million low-income Oregonians to get the basic, yet comprehensive health care they need.

Measure 106 on the November ballot threatens to punch a hole in the Oregon Health Plan’s array of comprehensive benefits by removing abortion as a covered service. In so doing, it would put at risk the economic well-being of low-income households.

The Oregon Health Plan offers comprehensive health services for several good reasons. The more familiar reason is that denying health care is penny wise and pound foolish. Holes in the array of covered services leaves people with untreated illness that can fester into more costly conditions. It’s better to help people stay healthy rather than paying to cure people of avoidable illnesses — the premise of the Oregon Health Plan. But another important reason for comprehensive health care is related to economic opportunity. Fundamentally, getting health care shouldn’t mean sacrificing our other basic needs. Since the Oregon Health Plan serves households already living on the edge, a basic yet comprehensive benefits package is critical to the economic security of those households.

Protecting the Oregon Health Plan is a broadly held priority in Oregon.

The practical impact of Measure 106 is to shift health care costs to low-income households, and to low-income women in particular. Women relying on the Oregon Health Plan already struggle to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. Of all Oregonians, they are least able to absorb the cost of a gap in covered reproductive health care services.

For the Oregon Center for Public Policy, Measure 106 boils down to an economic justice issue. We believe our state should not single out struggling households for higher reproductive health care costs. We urge Oregonians to reject Measure 106.