Wary of higher taxes, Oregon voters appear to have soundly rejected a ballot initiative that, at a cost of roughly $19 billion per year, would have created the first state-financed universal healthcare system in the country. As of midday today, the initiative was failing by a whopping 80%-to-20% margin, with 61% of precincts reporting. Measure 23 would have created a single, government-run health plan covering 100% of residents' medically necessary healthcare costs with no deductibles or cost-sharing. It would have been financed by new payroll and income taxes as well as the redirection of current local, state and federal healthcare funding in Oregon. The measure was opposed by a well-financed coalition of health insurers and other business groups, which warned that the proposal's huge price tag would nearly double state income taxes and drive employers away. Supporters of the grass-roots initiative said they would try again in 2004. They argued a universal plan would address the rising number of uninsured, which now tops 340,000 in Oregon, reduce administrative costs and keep the population healthier through better preventative care. -- by Laura B. Benko
Ore. voters say 'no' to universal healthcare
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