Defeat Of Oregon Tobacco Tax Ballot Measure For Insurance

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Two editorials on Thursday addressed the defeatof an Oregon ballot measure that would have increased the state'scigarette tax by 84.5 cents per pack to fund health coverage forchildren in families with incomes up to 300% of the federal povertylevel. Summaries of the editorials appear below.

  • New York Times:The defeat of the Oregon children's health measure "is a testament ...to the shamelessness of the nation's big tobacco companies," which"spent an obscene amount of money on deceptive television ads designedto protect their profits, even at the expense of poor children,"according to a Times editorial. Tobacco companies "didnot win by disputing the urgent health care needs the initiative wasmeant to address or the benefits higher cigarette taxes would bring bydeterring smoking," the editorial continues. Instead, they "sought tohide behind a benign-sounding front group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check" and encouraged "doubts that the funds raised would actually be used for children's health care," the Times writes. According to the Times,"The referendum said a lot about the power of money in any election andnot much about what the public thinks about the issue if given accurateand balanced information." The editorial concludes, "The vote shouldneither deter Congressional Democrats from continuing to confrontPresident Bush on expanding children's health care under the SCHIPprogram nor discourage other states from trying to do more to take careof the health of their children" (New York Times, 11/8).
  • Wall Street Journal:"Oregon reproduced the current SCHIP fracas in [Washington, D.C.,] onthe state level," and the "referendum took a major shellacking" fromvoters, the Journal writes in an editorial. "There arepolitical lessons here, in case anyone in Washington is payingattention," the editorial states, adding, "Voters are rightly concernedabout health care and would like everyone to have insurance, but theyrealize that government programs are very expensive," and they "don'tseem to want to pay for health care reforms directly through highertaxes." This sentiment "accounts for the reliance by politicians on theeasier sell of tobacco taxes, and it also explains why Congress hasdisguised the real cost of its SCHIP contraption with a $30 billionbudget gimmick," according to the editorial. It concludes, "most of thenational press corps has already assumed 'universal' coverage will bothcarry [Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton(D-N.Y.)] to the White House and march easily into law," but the"message from the Oregon trail is -- not so fast, especially if herRepublican opponent advances a credible free-market alternative" (Wall Street Journal, 11/8).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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