Jim Hill Talks About Health Care Being Important, But What Did He Do?

As a Legislator, Hill Was One of Handful to Vote Against the Oregon Health Plan and Against Requiring Employers to Offer Health Care or Pay Into Pool

For Immediate Release April 7, 2006
Contact:Lisa Grove, 503-957-8550

Portland -- Jim Hill has made the pressing issue of health care a centerpiece of his campaign. In a recent letter to potential supporters, Hill said “It is not acceptable to wait until an election year to start talking about issues affecting our state.” We agree.

While Governor Kulongoski has been trying to keep the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) whole, expanding coverage for thousands of children, cutting prescription costs and stepping in with emergency coverage when the federal government abandoned seniors and the most needy, Hill has been providing more than empty rhetoric: bad votes.

In the legislature, Hill was one of three Senators to vote against the final passage of the bill that established the OHP [SB 27, 6/26/89, concur in House amendments and passed, signed into law]. His excuse? Fears that it would be not be sufficiently funded or go far enough. “I’d like to hear Jim Hill tell that to the single mom working at Wal-Mart whose only safety net has been the Oregon Health Plan,” said Lisa Grove.

In contrast, as Oregon Insurance Commissioner, Kulongoski was a key adviser on developing the OHP and authored several portions of the legislation.

It is perhaps even more ironic that Hill, who wants to just “take money from corporations,” refused to require businesses to provide health care or pay into an employer pool [HB 935, 1989]. In this case, he was just one of six to vote against this measure.

While Hill has accused Kulongoski of failing to support the Oregon Health Plan, this historical rewrite is simply not credible. In 2003, Kulongoski convinced the Republican legislature to raise the corporate minimum tax as part of a revenue package that would have added $500 million to the OHP. When anti-government activists forced a public vote on the proposal, Kulongoski tirelessly campaigned for its approval – a campaign from which his opponents were noticeably absent.

“It seems obvious to me that health care would be a lot more affordable today had Hill stepped up and demanded more of our corporations during a period of economic prosperity,” said Grove. She added, “It saddens me to think of how much additional pressure Oregon employers would have been able to apply to insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies to lower their rates and make the system more affordable.”


Posted on April 7, 2006