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Take the initiative for your health

We normally don't weigh in on ballot measures until they actually qualify for the ballot. But there's one initiative out there this year that deserves the full airing that only an election can provide, which is why we're urging readers to sign a petition to get the Health-care Options Provided Efficiently (HOPE) initiative before voters

Crafted by a bi-partisan trio of lawmakers, it would amend the Oregon Constitution to say that access to health care is a fundamental right and force the Legislature to develop a plan to meet that obligation by 2009.

The initiative is purposefully vague. It does not outline how the access to health care would be delivered.

You can debate whether such a plan is feasible and, if so, how it could be financed. But the most compelling argument coming from its sponsors has nothing to do with what they say, but what recently happened to one of them.

Last year state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Washington County Democrat, was diagnosed with cancer.

His medical bills have totaled about $75,000, including several rounds of $800-a-day chemotherapy.

Because he's insured, Greenlick's medical woes didn't become a financial crisis.

But what about the 600,000 Oregonians who don't have insurance because they're not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but not able to pay their own way. As Greenlick notes, two-thirds of the uninsured have a family member with a full-time job.

What would happen if they got cancer? Some, Greenlick said, would be able to take out a second-mortgage on the house and drain their kids' college funds. Others? 'Maybe they'll get treatment,' he said. 'Maybe they won't.'

Is the HOPE initiative the answer? We're not sure, but it at least is raising the question. Backers face a July 7 deadline to get the 101,000 signatures it needs. Several petitions are circulating in the area. If you don't spot one in the next few days, give Geenlick a call at 503-292-2223. 'We'll find a way to get one to you,' he promises.