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By Ian K. Kullgren October 8, 2010

Liberal website says Rep. Jim Weidner tried to take health care away from 80,000 Oregon children

Forget taking candy away from children. Blue Oregon, a liberal political website, is accusing one Republican candidate of trying to take health care away from 80,000 of Oregon’s youth.

In a postlooking for political contributions, Kari Chisholm of Blue Oregon describes the race in House District 24 as follows: "Susan Sokol Blosser (the Democrat) is one of the founders of Oregon's world-renowned wine industry where she’s a leader on environmental sustainability. Her opponent, Rep. Jim Weidnerproposed a bill taking away health care for 80,000 of Oregon's children."

Ouch. Not exactly the sort of thing that wins you votes.

Naturally, PolitiFact Oregon wondered if Weidner, who has four kids himself, really has it out for Oregon’s children.

The claim on Blue Oregon was in reference to House Bill 3603, a bill that Weidner sponsored during the February 2010 special session. The bill, according to the summary, "repeals (the) health insurance premium assessment."

That was nice and vague, so we did some more sleuthing and ended up with the staff measure summary for House Bill 2116. Why House Bill 2116? Well, that was the bill that, in part, instituted the "health insurance premium assessment" or, to put it comprehensible English, a 1 percent tax on health insurance premiums paid by the insurance companies but passed on to the customers.

According to the staff measure summary, that 1 percent tax would be used to provide funding for health care for 80,000 children during the 2009-2011 biennium through Oregon Healthy Kids. Those 80,000 were in addition to the the children already covered by the state-run plan.

So, it seems, Weidner does want to eliminate a tax that is being used to provide health care to children. We checked in with Weidner to see if he could explain his position. As it turns out, he’s not so much against health care for children as he is against the 1 percent tax. He says the tax disproportionately hurts small businesses. Weidner sponsored the bill, he says, because he wanted to bring attention to this and other issues. "I knew the bill wasn’t going to go anywhere."

Before we settled on a ruling we wanted to check one other thing: Even if Weidner’s bill had gone through, are there really 80,000 children who would lose health insurance? We called Oregon Healthy Kids to find out.

As it happens, since the bill passed, about 57,000 children have been enrolled in the program, according to Cathy Kaufmann, manager of the Healthy Kids Office. That’s as of August. Kaufmann expects that the full 80,000 will be enrolled before the end of the 2009-2011 biennium.

So where does that leave us? Well, while we’re feeling pretty confident that Weidner isn’t anti-health care for kids, he did, as the website alleges, propose a bill that would have eliminated the funding for health care for 80,000 children. Whether he thought it would pass or not doesn’t much change things. And some context about how he was really targeting a tax would have been nice.  Still, we rate this claim True.

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Liberal website says Rep. Jim Weidner tried to take health care away from 80,000 Oregon children

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