This week there were several gains for our health reform efforts.
Lawmakers announced a bipartisan plan that will reduce the shortfall in the state Medicaid budget by about one-third through an increase in the hospital provider tax. As a result, rate reductions to Medicaid providers won't be as deep as earlier anticipated. Under the plan, cuts will be around 11.5 percent instead of 19 percent.
I know these cuts will still be difficult but the hope is by minimizing them as much as possible, the Medicaid delivery system can remain stable and the path is cleared for the necessary transformation to improved health and lower costs.
Also this week, Governor Kitzhaber signed two health reform bills. One is Senate Bill 94, which came from the Oregon Health Policy Board's work to reduce red tape and simplify administrative processes for health care providers. As we work to make the health care system more efficient – and as providers face reduced rates – this will become increasingly important. The legislation reduces the myriad of health insurance formats that bog down care and sets a single standard. Providers can now spend more time giving care and less time doing paperwork.
The second bill, Senate Bill 514, ensures year-round access to health care coverage for all of Oregon's children by eliminating the "open enrollment" periods for kids. Once the bill goes into effect in August, no child's health care will be delayed because it's the wrong month on the calendar to apply.
Two other key pieces of legislation - the health care system transformation bill (HB 3650) and the Health Insurance Exchange (SB 99) - continue to move forward through the legislative process.
We are about to enter what most people believe is the final month of the legislative session. When it is over, new challenges will begin. For now, however, we should take a moment to recognize the successes of this past week.
Most importantly, please take the time this Memorial Day weekend to remember loved ones lost and the great sacrifices made by the men and women of the military and their families. We owe them our enduring gratitude and support.