Does Oregon Prove the Viability of a Public Option in Health Care?


Yes, says former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is running for office again and is touting his state's low-income public plan as a way of increasing the percentage of insured residents and curbing costs. Unlike many similar plans, the Oregon plan doesn't hide the fact that it rations care; indeed, the plan has a list of what it will and will not cover. From a SoCal public radio writeup on the situation:

John Kitzhaber began his work life as an emergency room doctor in 1974. He was elected governor of Oregon 20 years later — and health care has been a large part of his political life. He is considered the father of the Oregon Health Plan, which expanded health care to the working poor by spreading Medicaid dollars over a larger group of people and rationing services.

Now Kitzhaber is running for governor once more — and health care is on his agenda again. He wants to make Oregon a health care model for the rest of the country.

The bad news? According to the Cascade Policy Institute, in the late 1980s, the percentage of uninsured Oregonians was 18 percent. Now it's 17.4 percent. As for containing costs, Oregon had to shut down enrollment in its program for several years due to unexpectedly high demand. Similarly weak, unintended, or disastrous experiences are common are in other states that have expanded the state's role in providing health care. And the states are generally more responsible than the feds. As Eric Fruits writes

States can limit their losses because they must balance their budgets. Moreover, states cannot print money. The federal government does not have a balanced budget requirement, and it has the power to print money. That means that the costs of federal efforts to expand health care ultimately will result in a combination of higher deficits, more taxes and inflation. When Congress returns from its break, it either will learn from the costly mistakes of the states, or it will repeat them on a national scale.

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  1. When Congress returns from its break, it either will learn from the costly mistakes of the states, or it will repeat them on a national scale.

    Anyone want to place bets on which one they'll choose?

    1. If they return from break at all, they've already chosen unwisely.

  2. Oregon:
    9% income tax
    Insurance costs skyrocketed
    Housing prices high
    Unemployment one of the highest in the nation
    State was listed as high risk for going bankrupt

    I don't think anybody should be holding my state up as a beacon of good governance and health care reform.

    Bad news is this guy will likely be the next governor.

    1. Haha whats funny is my partner and I are thinking about ditching WA and heading South to OR.

      Don't worry, I don't need state health care.

      I'm just going for the 36 plant limit.

  3. Oregon had to shut down enrollment in its program for several years due to unexpectedly high demand.

    Nobody could have foreseen the possibility that lots of people would want to jump on the gravy train!

  4. I explain things like this to people, and all I get are accusations of hating poor people and wanting them all to die.

  5. Oregon proves white people are unfit to govern themselves.

  6. Kitzhaber is a such a loon. What the summary doesn't mention is that he pushed the Oregon Health Plan through the legislature when he was president of the state Senate, then moved over to the governorship mainly to be the OHP "administrator" of his baby. Everything else he didn't really care about, leaving Oregon's state budget in a terrible place for the 2001 recession.

    He's running again to restore the OHP to its full glory after the legislature and state axed significant portions of it due to his steaming pile of fiscal shit that he left.

    And for Rick, don't forget the capped (**) property taxes, no sales tax, and ban on self service gasoline (***) including no top-off on the tank.

    * His (in state) famous quote about Oregon being ungovernable because the Rupublican controlled legislature wouldn't be his lap dog.

    ** sort of

    *** diesel self service is ok under state law but most stations will freak out if you grab the diesel pump yourselft

    1. Not sure if you were adding to my list or refuting the overall premise (Oregon is expensive AND broke), but I will make some additional comments on your additions:

      Capped property taxes sounded good for existing home owners years back when housing prices soared. Ask how someone who bought in 2007 feels when they realized that despite losing 30% of their home value - the taxes were still going up (and initially based on purchase price).

      No sales tax sounds great until you do the math. I use to live in CA, where you can get a tax break on your sales tax, so I always kept track of it. I am a voracious consumer with a fair amount of disposable income, and was amazed that my sales tax in a given year (excluding car purchase years), was less than 1% of my income. My total tax burden (to my dismay) increased when I moved from the CA socialist regime to the Oregon socialist regime.

      The ban on self service almost got me beat down by an attendant on my first trip to the state 🙂 While it falls into the category of things I don't really mind paying for, the concept is still ridiculous.

      Oregon is a beautiful state, but it is controlled by the PDX progressive crowd, which really takes a toll on what is left of the middle class.

      1. But... But.... They are so well-intentioned!*

        1. *Well-intentioned = hippies who fail at basic logic.

  7. I'm all for rationing health care. To politicians.

  8. Well it sounds like OR needs to get on the band wagon, and legalize Cannibis, TAX it, and maybe they can fix more then the roads in OR.

    1. It's pretty much legalized already. Just find any quack to sign off on the medical marijuana card. Or wait until you're busted, claim it's for medical use, get the card afterwards, and the judge returns your grow equipment.

  9. Yup ... healthcare reform as being contemplated maybe broke on arrival, but the problems with healthcare still needs to be addressed -- urgently.


  10. In all the talk about health care reform, I don't feel like there's enough discussion about understanding the real costs of health care. Why don't we ever know the costs of health care procedures and treatments? ?" I got a kick out of this short video. Check it out. It makes you wonder why our health care system is set up the way it is.

  11. I remember reading that the largest single employer in OR is the US Postal Service. I wonder what percent of OR employment is government - that'll increase the amount of tax money coming in to pay for the health care, and reduce demand for it. Moral of the story: to keep your state medical-costs low, make everyone federal employees 🙂

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