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Corvallis, Ashland Cast Votes on Universal Healthcare System

Even though the vote is only advisory, advocates are hopeful it will create the incentive to bring about change.
November 4, 2016

Voters in Corvallis and Albany can cast a vote next Tuesday about whether Oregon should move toward a universal healthcare system.

The outcome is only advisory and doesn’t have the force of law, yet supporters are enthusiastic about its potential impact.

“We want the state to move toward an affordable healthcare system for all Oregonians,” said Dr. Bruce Thomson, who’s helping lead the effort in Corvallis and is a member of Health Care for All Oregon, which favors a single-payer system. 

The vote couldn’t come at a more opportune time. By early December, lawmakers expect to learn the recommendations by RAND Corporation on the most feasible way to achieve universal coverage.

A single-payer system is among the alternatives, along with a public option on the insurance exchange and a full rollout of the Affordable Care Act possibly with a Basic Health Plan for working-class residents.

The Legislature authorized the study, following the passage of Senate Bill 2828 with Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, leading the charge.

If Corvallis voters approve the ballot measure, Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates won’t hesitate to encourage legislators to move in that direction. If they don’t heed the call, Thomson said, supporters are likely to start gathering signatures for a statewide referendum, perhaps in 2020.

“This has been a training run for us on how to canvass locally and get the word out; our ultimate goal is to improve healthcare for all Oregonians,” said Thomson who’s confident voters will say yes given support from the business community and community leaders. Up to 30,000 votes could be cast in Corvallis.

Before retiring as a family physician, Thomson grew increasingly disgusted about how the private commercial insurance companies treated their patients. “Now that I’m retired I have more time and energy to help make a better system for all of us.”

In related news, Betty Johnson received the lifetime achievement award from the Oregon Public Health Association at its annual meeting in October. Johnson, a long-time advocate is the co-founder of Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates and Health Care for All Oregon.

Diane can be reached at [email protected].