Today, election day, is a day to watch the states closely for on-the-ground action on health. In particular, the outcome of the vote in Oregon which would raise the state’s cigarette tax to cover children’s health care could provide impetus to move the vote pro-kid’s health at the Federal level.

Oregon has a history of being leading-edge in health care politics. A Health Affairs article from December 2006 discusses that history, and subsequent gap between Oregon’s health aspirations versus declining enrollment in its ambitious health plan. Today’s vote could fill that gap.

If Oregonians reject Measure 50, those who diss SCHIP will have ammunition for their position.

Measure 50 has cost a lot of money to lobby. Combined with Measure 49 (on property rights), the campaigns spent over $22 million, equal to $22 per Oregon vote, pro and con. Most of the money has come from pro-tobacco organizations — including Philip Morris (Marlboro) and RJ Reynolds (Camels) — who together spent $12 million fighting against an increased cigarette tax.

More than half of the campaign spending has been by tobacco makers opposed to Measure 50, which would raise cigarette taxes for children’s health care.


In another important health vote today, New Jersey citizens will vote on a $450 million stem cell bond act to fund research in the state over ten years. This would add New Jersey to those states who already devote funds to stem cells, including California, Massachusetts, and New York.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Given the SCHIP impasse at the Federal level, real action for health reform is now at the state level. Can an Oregon win for Measure 50 provide a tipping point for Congress to get the gumption to pass SCHIP? A strong turnout for the measure would be a sign that the tobacco lobby continues to decline in its influence. However, hoping for this to motivate the House to vote in favor of SCHIP may just be a pipedream, or blowing smoke.

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