What is more harmful to children’s’ health than tobacco smoke? The answer may be irresponsible parents. In Oregon, a state where the unemployment rate hovers near a low 5 percent and over 60 percent of employers offer health insurance to their employees, there is relatively little excuse for a parent not to have health insurance. It is as simple as asking potential employers if they offer insurance during the interviewing process. If they don’t, job-hunters can always walk down the street to the next employer. Chances are better than 50/50 that the next employer will offer insurance. And without a state-run insurance program to fall back on, more employees would increasingly demand insurance and the percentage of employers offering it would most likely increase.
But, rather than exercising their freedom of choice, some Oregonians find it easier to try and force their neighbors to pay for care of the state’s children (among other things). Measure 50, a SCHIP-like bill set for a vote today, would raise the tax on cigarettes $.84 percent supposedly to pay for the state’s healthy kid’s fund. Campaigns both in support and opposition to the measure have been fierce.
Supporters of the bill, appealing to blatant emotionalism, aired video advertisements featuring sick children and struggling parents. “The money promised to health care goes to health care” the narrator in one ad claims, but opposition ads note, the amount promised to health care is only a small portion of the new revenue that the tobacco tax would raise. According to the measures critics (rightly, tobacco companies), over 71% of the new taxes revenues from the measure will not go to the healthy kids program.
Rather than forcing neighbors to pay for their kids’ medical care by penalizing what they deem “irresponsible” behavior (smoking), responsible parents ought to seek employment from only those employers offering insurance for their workers.