Oregon Latest to Move Toward Universal Health Care

December 11, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Oregon's Senate Interim Commission on Health Care Access and Affordability has approved a draft of a universal health care plan for the state.

The Oregonian reports the plan would require all employers and individuals to contribute money to a common pool called the Oregon Health Care Trust Fund. Money from businesses would possibly be collected via a payroll tax, according to the Oregonian. Large companies with self-insurance plans would have their contributions reimbursed.

In addition, an 11-member Health Care Trust Fund Commission or board, appointed by the governor, would adopt regulations and administer the trust. Businesses and individuals could choose health plans, which would be paid through the trust with rates set by the commission or board.

The plan would give every state citizen access to a health card that could be used to buy a complete health care package – including dental, mental health and vision coverage – for less than most businesses and individuals now pay, according to the Oregonian. Residents who earn less than 250% of the poverty level would not have to pay to be in the plan. Those who choose not to participate in the plan would lose their personal state income tax deduction. All participants would be required to write an advance directive, describing the level of care they would want at the end of life.

The commission’s plan will be refined into a bill that, if passed by the Senate next year, will establish only the trust fund commission and a small semi-independent agency that will work out details for the plan, including costs, the newspaper said. Then, the Legislature would have to pass another bill to put money into the fund, meaning Oregon residents may not see the plan in action before 2009.

Oregon is just the latest in a ripple of states that have passed or are considering universal health care mandates since Massachusetts passed its aggressive health care bill in April (See MA House Overrides Vetoes of Health Care Bill). Tennessee governor Phil Bresden singed Cover Tennessee, a universal health care mandate, in June (See TN Gov. Signs Health Care Bill).

Other states including Michigan (See MI’s Granholm Joins Health Reform Trend ), Minnesota (See Minnesota Looking Into Universal Health Care ), and Vermont (See VT Health Care Reform Moves Forward ) have introduced similar bills providing health care subsidies for low income individuals and imposing fees on businesses that do not provide employee health care coverage. However, in July a federal judge threw out a Maryland law mandating employee coverage from large employers in the state, saying the Employee Retirement Income Security Act overrides the state mandate (See Judge: ERISA Trumps MD ‘Wal-Mart’ Health Care Law ).