Thursday, April 26, 2007

Update: All GOP reps have constituents whose kids have health insurance

This is an update to the piece just below. Just hearing from the House Majority Leader's office with the following press release (emphasis Carla):

House Republicans Vote to Kill Health Care Plan for Oregon Kids

State’s 117,000 uninsured children will continue to live without health care for now

SALEM—After more than four hours of delay, procedural maneuvers, a staged walk-out by House Republicans and a move by one House Republican to refuse to fulfill his Constitutional obligation to vote on the bill, House Republicans voted today to kill the Democrat-backed “Healthy Kids Plan,” which would have extended health care coverage to Oregon’s 117,000 uninsured children.

“This vote wasn’t about policy. It was about politics,” said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County). “Today House Republicans used every trick in the book to delay and avoid taking a vote on an issue of great importance to Oregonians. In the end, they failed our state’s children, choosing partisan politics and the deep pockets of big tobacco over the health and well-being of our kids.”

The vote today came after months of attempts by House Democratic Leadership to negotiate with House Republican Leadership on a bipartisan compromise. When House Republican leadership refused to continue constructive negotiations, three weeks ago, Democrats decided to bring the bill to a vote and debate on the House floor.

Democrats made several amendments to the bill prior to bringing it to a vote in an effort to alleviate concerns raised by House Republicans, such as limiting participation in the program to legal Oregon residents only and dropping the eligibility for the program from 350% of the federal poverty level to 300% to make the program more fiscally sustainable.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said State Representative Tina Kotek (D-Portland), Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Health Care. “Oregonians of every stripe find it unacceptable that any Oregon child lacks access to basic health care. The healthy development and academic success of our kids, not to mention the financial stability of their families, should be a high priority for every member of the legislature.”

Democrats say the plan, which be funded by an increase in the state’s tobacco tax, is critical because middle-income, working families are falling through the cracks – they make too much money for their kids to qualify for state and federal health care assistance, but not enough to pay for the skyrocketing costs of private health insurance.

“Republicans who voted today against health care for kids will try to tell you that we don’t need new revenue and Oregonians don’t want new taxes,” said State Representative Mary Nolan (D-Portland). “Put simply: that’s bunk. Over the last two weeks, as part of a statewide series of hearings on the proposed state budget, I have heard from hundreds and hundreds of Oregonians. Not one said, ‘Don’t raise the tobacco tax.’ But each pleaded with the legislature to ease the burden of unbearable health care costs on their families.”

The Healthy Kids Plan was intended to bridge the gap for the children of working families by using a combination of the state’s pooling power and federal matching dollars to make the cost of health insurance more affordable for working families who would be able to purchase coverage on an income-based sliding scale.

The plan also would have provided the added benefit of further funding smoking cessation programs and increasing access to health care, particularly in rural areas.

“The Healthy Kids Plan is a win-win proposal that should have passed,” said State Representative Suzanne Bonamici. “Increasing tobacco taxes deters people from smoking—especially our youth. And when the revenue goes to provide health care for kids, we all benefit.”

“This fight isn’t over,” said Kotek. “Despite today’s vote, our moral obligation to ensure health care for every Oregon child remains. Each day that goes by without this plan in place is a day that Oregon children suffer unnecessarily from treatable and preventable illnesses. The time to act is now.”

Mr. Butts (who made the rounds through the Capitol today) must be so proud of Oregon Republicans.