Michael Moore's pitch for universal health care in Sicko should give Oregon voters a healthy dose of déjà vu.
In 2002, Health Care for All–Oregon, a grassroots group promoting healthcare reform, put Measure 23 on the ballot to establish a Canadian-style healthcare system in Oregon. The measure called for a new Oregon Health Care Finance Board to take responsibility for insuring state residents with funds generated by higher income and payroll taxes.
But with opponents such as BlueCross BlueShield Oregon outraising supporters by a margin of 10 to 1, voters rejected it like a colonic in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Nearly four in five Oregonians—79 percent—voted against the plan.
"There was not enough generalized pain to put through a comprehensive plan like this," said Mark Lindgren, chairman of Health Care for All–Oregon.
But with healthcare costs continuing to soar, and even more Americans now uninsured, voters today may be more responsive to universal healthcare proposals, Lindgren says.
"Five years ago, people decided to stay with the devil they knew," Lindgren says. "But now, who knows?"
With his healthcare bill DOA in the Oregon Legislature (see page 31), former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber may try to make his case for a universal healthcare system directly to voters in 2008.
Liz Baxter, director of the Archimedes Movement—an organization formed by Kitzhaber to shape the healthcare policy debate—says a ballot initiative is being considered but no decision has yet been made. —