As we enter the second half of the legislative session, it's a perfect time to update you on some of the key health bills being considered by the Legislature.
Health Insurance Exchange (SB 99)
This week there was an important step forward in the Legislature as the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange bill passed with bi-partisan, unanimous support through the Senate health care committee Thursday.
This is good news for what could be 350,000 Oregonians who would have access to affordable, quality health care through the Exchange. It also means we are one step closer to having an Exchange that meets Oregon's needs rather than relying on the federal government.
The health insurance exchange will give Oregonians more health care options - a greater number of affordable plans through health insurance companies that will compete on price, quality and other standards set by the Exchange board. Consumers will be empowered because for the first time they will have information to make "apples to apples" comparisons and avoid the confusing morass that is the current marketplace.
Through the Exchange, consumers also have options to maintain their health care coverage if they change jobs or lose employment.
Small businesses will benefit because through the Exchange they can offer plans with a defined contribution and their workers can shop for plans themselves, which means less paperwork and administrative costs. In these difficult economic times, Oregon's small businesses need all the help they can get, and the Exchange will make things easier for them.
Most people will use a website to research, compare and purchase plans. Wisconsin's prototype exchange shows how that might look.
Reduce Administrative Costs in Health Care (SB 94)
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about this bill and how it will help health care providers reduce administrative overhead and allow them to spend more time with patients. The bill has passed out of committee and is headed soon to a full vote on the Senate floor.
Building a Healthcare Workforce
We have three bills that will help build the health care workforce of the future that have progressed in the Legislature over the past few weeks.
SB 2400: Funds the primary care loan repayment program to strengthen our primary care workforce. This program provides incentives for primary care doctors to work in rural and underserved communities in Oregon.
SB 96: Expands the workforce database. This bill expands the health care regulatory board licensees who will be in the Oregon Healthcare Workforce Database to include professionals, such as mental health and behavioral health providers, who are not in the database today. This will allow us to better analyze where there are gaps in the health care workforce.
SB 879: Student passport. Today as health care students move through the clinical trainings that give them real-life training, they often have to do background checks for each placement. That can be a half-dozen or so a year, which is expensive and cumbersome. This bill convenes a work group to develop standards for a single administrative requirement that can act as a "passport" for these placements to ease the burden.
Strengthen Medical Liability System (SB 95)
This bill ensures that an insurer cannot refuse to defend a physician who is being sued for malpractice because he or she disclosed an error to the patient or their family. It also amends Oregon's apology law to clarify that health care employers are also protected by the law.
As you've heard me say many times, our work is geared toward better health, better care, lower costs. The legislative package we are working on with lawmakers and the Governor will help us meet those goals. I will continue to keep you updated on these and other bills as they move through the legislative process.