Illustration by Casey Litchfield

Do we finally agree that health care is a human right?

Measure 111 asks us to enshrine it into law

Affordable health care is a necessity, but not everybody can afford it. This needs to change because as human beings we all deserve to have access to services that will treat us when we are sick or injured. We can obtain this affordable health care through Measure 111, a measure on the Oregon ballot this fall.


Ballotpedia reports that this measure seeks to add a section to the Oregon Constitution establishing a right to “cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care for every Oregon resident.” The amendment tasks the state with balancing the obligation of ensuring the public’s right to health care while still funding public schools and other essential public services as well.


I believe this amendment should have been proposed much earlier. Even though it would officially make affordable health care a legally guaranteed human right, it has always been a right on the most basic level. Why hasn’t this kind of amendment been passed sooner?


According to Ballotpedia, “the amendment has been introduced at least eight times in the last 16 years.” The fact that it took so long to be voted on and codified into law is unacceptable.  Those in power should have pushed this measure out and voted on it as soon as it was suggested. The fact that this was not passed sooner has caused many people to live and suffer with serious health problems while having no access to the help they need.


Measure 111 will help to fix this by mandating a lowering of the cost of insurance. This is an urgent matter, as many people struggle to pay for their insurance. A report by Tatiana Parafiniuk of the Register Guard found that “most Oregonians, about 94%, have health insurance, according to a 2019 report from the Oregon Health Authority. In 2019, 49.3% of Oregonians had private group health insurance, 25.4% had Medicaid through the Oregon Health Plan, 15.2% had Medicare, and 4% had individual private insurance, leaving about 6%, 248,000 people, uninsured.”


“Those who oppose the measure are concerned establishing the right before setting up the mechanism for insuring those uncovered could set up the state for inaction on the new obligation or leave the state vulnerable to lawsuits when it fails to cover the gap,” Parafiniuk’s report continued.


While this is important to consider, voters need to decide whether they want to take the risk. In truth, the decision comes down to whether one believes that the state can successfully implement health care more equitably, accepting the possibility of failure. In the end, I hope we make the right decision not just for each of us individually, but also for the state as a whole.