House Passes Bill to Study Universal Healthcare in Oregon

Rep. Michael Dembrow attracted the support of five Republicans to solicit private donations to fund a rigorous academic study on how best to bring true universal healthcare to Oregon.
By Christopher David Gray

July 1, 2013 — The House passed a universal healthcare study bill 37-23, clearing the way for private money to fund a comprehensive study into what advocates consider the most equitable and cost-effective means of financing healthcare for all Oregonians.

“We need to take a better look at financing different healthcare systems in this state,” Rep. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, told his House colleagues Friday.

House Bill 3260 calls upon the Oregon Health Authority to administer the study, which will look at several different healthcare models. The $200,000 to $600,000 required could be a combination of federal grants, individual contributions and foundation donations, according to Dembrow.

That revenue would likely flow through a nonprofit entity such as the Northwest Health Foundation which would pass those dollars onto the Oregon Health Authority. It would contract directly with an entity skilled in healthcare research, such as Oregon State University, and have the final say about such a contract.

“The Oregon Health Authority will act as the firewall to ensure that there is no connection between the donors and the research,” Dembrow said.

Although Dembrow is optimistic the Medicaid expansion and the insurance exchange will help more people gain access to healthcare, he said, Oregon could make great use of an objective academic study to review shortcomings in the system, such as the 170,000 Oregonians who'll be left without insurance and the continued high cost of healthcare for those who have coverage.

“Anyone who doesn’t know the healthcare system isn’t sick or hasn’t been to a doctor lately,” said Rep. David Gomberg, D-Lincoln City. He told his colleagues that his wife paid $400 for X-rays and a shoulder injury in a foreign country, but had a retina tear to her eye in the United States and had to spend $20,000 out-of-pocket, even with insurance.

The Affordable Care Act should mitigate much of that out-of-pocket expense next year, but Gomberg said he's still faced with having to spend a considerable amount of money on health insurance for the employees in his kite manufacturing business.

Five Republicans supported HB 3260 when it reached the House, including Rep. Jim Thompson of Dallas, the vice-chairman of the Health Committee. Earlier, the measure received a unanimous vote in that committee, but Thompson was the only Republican on the panel who stuck with the bill.

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized we’re conducting a study with the outcome already determined,” Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, told The Lund Report. “It’s an investigation into a single-payer system.”

“Only if he thinks that’s the best and most effective system,” Dembrow told The Lund Report after he heard Kennemer’s rationale for switching his vote while he had supported it in the Health Committee.

Vermont conducted a similar study, Dembrow said, and anticipated the outcome would lead to a single-payer health system. Instead, people in Vermont adopted a hybrid model that's creating a state-run system similar to Medicare paid for with tax dollars, while exempting self-insured companies such as IBM. Although that decision upset some single-payer activists, Dembrow believes in the scholarly objectives laid out in the study and said he would support the results.

Because of restrictions in the Affordable Care Act, Vermont’s system must wait until 2017 to be implemented.

Oregon’s study, meanwhile, must be completed by November 2014, in time for the start of the 2015 legislative session. At that point, the Legislature will decide what to do with the information, if anything.

Also, single-payer supporters have announced they intend to put their preferred system before voters in the 2016 general election.

The study called for in HB 3260 will look at four systems – single-payer; a full roll out of the Affordable Care Act with the Cover Oregon exchange, a Basic Health Plan option for low-income families ineligible for Medicaid; with a public option sold on the exchange; and a system offering families a private insurance plan with just the essential health benefits.

Families and individuals eligible for federal subsidies on the exchange would get care without cost-sharing, while those above that income level would be required to make co-payments and pay deductibles, under the last scenario, which was pitched by former Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany.

Two Democrats opposed the bill, Rep. Caddy McKeown of Coos Bay and Rep. Brent Barton of Gladstone.

Barton told The Lund Report that he was uncomfortable funding the study with private money that could influence the outcome, sharing an argument taken up by conservative Republican Rep. Tim Freeman of Roseburg who cited that example on the House floor.

“I absolutely support the idea behind it,” Barton said. “If it were government-funded, I would have voted for it.”

Earlier in the session, the legislative budget chairmen told Dembrow they would not agree to spend any tax dollars for a universal healthcare study. And, it's highly unlikely that Republicans who are opposed to universal healthcare would have wanted such a scenario.

HB 3260 must now go before the Senate, where it's co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham and Chip Shields of Portland.

Republican Senator Objects to Secret Meetings for CCO Councils

Links:
[1] http://www.thelundreport.org/sites/default/files/padlock%20unlocked.jpg
[2] http://www.thelundreport.org/sites/default/files/padlock%20unlocked_0.jpg
[3] http://www.leg.state.or.us/13reg/measpdf/sb0700.dir/sb0725.b.pdf
[4] http://www.leg.state.or.us/13reg/measpdf/sb0400.dir/sb0412.intro.pdf
[5] http://www.thelundreport.org/resource/greenlick_and_shields_want_to_shine_daylight_on_ccos
[6] http://www.thelundreport.org/resource/greenlick_wants_public_comment_period_but_ccos_resist
[7] http://www.leg.state.or.us/13reg/measpdf/hb2900.dir/hb2960.a.pdf
[8] http://www.thelundreport.org/resource/house_health_committee_approves_cco_daylight_bill_on_narrow_vote
[9] http://www.thelundreport.org/resource/greenlick_ccos_agree_to_minimum_standard_of_public_oversight
[10] http://www.flickr.com/photos/ahnmyrrh/
[11] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/
[12] http://flickr.com
[13] mailto:chris@thelundreport.org
[14] http://www.thelundreport.org/resources/legislative_updates
[15] http://www.thelundreport.org/resources/the_lund_report
[16] http://www.thelundreport.org/resources/ccos
[17] http://www.thelundreport.org/resources/oregon_open_meetings_law
[18] http://www.thelundreport.org/resources/rep_jeff_kruse
[19] http://www.thelundreport.org/resources/transparency

CALLING ALL ADVOCATES!

We need you to submit your written support for Single Payer health care in Oregon to the Legislature - and we ask that you do this before May 10th!  Representative Dembrow's Single Payer health care bill (HB2922) will be heard before the Health Care Committee on May 13th at the State Capitol.  Oral testimony in favor of HB2922 will be presented by selected panels of speakers being assembled by HCAO, but written testimony can - and should - be submitted by as many supporters as possible.  An avalanche of written testimony will get the message across to legislators:  "The time has come to create a Single Payer system in Oregon!"

 

Please read on for further important information on how to submit written testimony: 

HB 2922 will be the only bill on the Health Care Committee agenda for May 13.  The committee will hear public testimony from 1-2:45 PM in Hearing Room E.  Written testimony should be submitted in a PDF format that identifies in the title who the submitter is.  Those should be e-mailed to Debbie Malone @ Debbie.malone@state.or.us with “HB 2922 Testimony” in the subject line.  All written testimony must be received by noon on May 10 in order to be on the record.  They will not accept written testimony during the hearing.

Here are some suggested "talking points" for HB2922:
1) Everybody will be "in" and receives the health care they need- WHEN they need it.
2) No more deaths due too no or little health insurance.
3) No more foreclosures because of medical bills.
4) No more medical postponements resulting in worse conditions.
5) Stop market based inflationary medical practices.
6) People will still be able to choose their medical providers.
7) Take health care off the bargaining table.
8) Stop "defensive medical care" which unnecessarily increases costs.
9) Reduce administrative costs.
10) Single payer will reduce employer costs.
11) No more out of pockets, high deductibles, co-pays, and limits.

12) No one loses health care when the lose or change jobs.


ALSO:  If you want to attend the hearing and make your support manifest, join your fellow MVHCA Advocates riding the bus on the morning of May 13th!  See the post below for more information.  We can take up to 52 riders!

Mid-Valley “Rallies the Troops”

If you were among the 80+ people who rode the bus from Corvallis to Salem and back to participate in the February Single Payer Health Care rally – or wanted to go but couldn’t – here’s another opportunity to make your presence felt at the State Capitol. Mark your calendars for May 13th!

The Single Payer Health Care bill (HB 2922) is scheduled to be heard before the Health Care Committee, and Salem needs to see – and hear – that the grassroots support for Health Care for All is growing. MVHCA is again reserving a large yellow bus to take Single Payer supporters to Salem and back – and you won’t find a more convenient and inexpensive way to make the trip. (If you live in Albany, you can be picked up and dropped off there.)

So, come join us! Contact MVHCA’s bus maven, Bobbi Hall, at rlhall@peak.org to let her know to save a seat for you. And don’t wait – we expect to fill the bus!

The bus will be leaving from the Corvallis Unitarian Universalist parking lot (2945 NW Circle) at 9:30 AM, and departing for home from Salem at 3:30 PM. There is no required fee for the trip, but MVHCA welcomes a $10 donation per rider to help defray the cost of the bus rental.

We hope to see you on the bus on May 13th!
see the Health Care for All -- Oregon website for more info

Exciting News Out of Salem!

HB 3260 was voted out of the House Committee on Health Care unanimously on Friday. The bill calls for a comparative study of health care financial models, including ours.

 
The April 5 hearing on this bill received testimony from co-sponsors Dembrow and Williamson, expert testimony, and 25 letters of support from legislators, organizations, businesses, and individuals. A number of HCAO observers later visited their representatives.
 
Amendments to the bill included deleting the word public from the potential funding sources. 
 
Tracking the two House Bills introduced by Representatives Michael Dembrow (D), District 45, and Jennifer Williamson (D), District 36, has kept the HCAO Legislative/Policy Committee very busy. 
(See http://hcao.org/health-care-legislation/ for details of both bills.)
 
The other, HB 2922, The Affordable Health Care for All Oregon Plan, offers a publicly funded plan to cover everyone living or working in Oregon. It would give everyone the opportunity to have their health care needs cared for by a certified medical provider of their choice. The results of HB 3260 will let us know how much money will need to be raised through progressive taxation to fund the plan, and how much it will save us.
 
The hearing for HB 2922 will be May 13 (Monday) at 1 p.m., probably in Hearing Room E. We are recruiting experts to testify, and we hope for a good turnout of red-shirted supporters. Here is the schedule:
 
9:30 a.m.: Training for lobbying, Room 50
10-12 a.m.: Lobby legislators
12-1 p.m.: Lunch (on your own)
1-3 p.m.: Hearing on HB 2922, House Committee on Health Care, Room E
3-3:30 p.m.: Debrief, Room 50
 
--Lou Sinniger, chair HCAO Legislative Committee

Important Advocacy This Week

Friday, April 5:  The legislative hearing on House Bill 3260 (authorizing a funding feasibility study for Oregon's health care delivery system) is scheduled for next Friday, April 5, at 1:00 pm at the Capitol.  A chartered bus will take people from Corvallis and Albany to attend the hearing.  Here's how to participate:

Please arrive at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship parking lot at 11:15, for first come/first served boarding, as we will leave at 11:30 SHARP.  If we have more than 50 riders, car pooling will be organized.  We will make one stop in Albany and that will take only 5 minutes so we should get to Salem at 12:30 and have restroom and line-up time. We expect to be back in Corvallis by 4:00. People can contact Bobbi Hall (our great bus organizer) at rlhall@peak.org for more information. Donations will be accepted gladly! 

Attending this hearing will provide up-to-date detailed information about House Bill 3260.  The bill requires a thorough study of universal health care systems that will meet the strict criteria of quality and choice that Mid-Valley Advocates considers important and, in addition, it requires a recommendation of the type of financing that will best fit Oregon's needs. Attendees will provide support for universal health care and will also gain insights into legislative processes and how citizens can maximize their input.  Rallies provide an outlet for enthusiasm; hearings provide deeper understandings and are equally or more valuable.

Please mark your calendars now for next Friday and plan to meet us in the UU parking lot at 11:15.


News flash:  On Monday evening, the 1st of April, the Corvallis City Council unanimously passed our  in support of HB 3260. Here is Chair Bud Laurent's thank you to the Council: 

 Dear Mayor Manning and Councilors:

Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates wishes to express the gratitude of our members for your consideration of a resolution in support of HB 3260, which would commission a study on the fiscal implications of several health care delivery and administration options.  That your Council supported the resolution unanimously was particularly gratifying to MVHCA;  once again, the City of Corvallis distinguishes itself by being a leader of public opinion in Oregon.  At the hearing for the bill on April 5th in Salem, the Health Care Committee will learn of Corvallis's support for a comprehensive study of health care alternatives because your Council knows that important decisions require good information as their foundation. 

We are particularly grateful to Councilor Richard Hervey for his initiative in placing the resolution before your council.  Our local health care reform community is in his debt - and yours. 

Sincerely,

Bud Laurent, Chair

Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates

Gazette-Times supports health care study!

March 19, 2013 9:15 am  •  

It’s hard to foot the bill for revolution if you don’t know what it will cost.

For years now, advocates of a single-payer health care system have been pushing for a revolution in health care. Among their claims: A single-payer system, in which the government pays for all health care costs rather than private insurers, is the cheapest way to provide quality care for all.

A new bill in the Oregon Legislature could help to test that notion: House Bill 3260 would direct the Oregon Health Authority to conduct a feasibility study on at least four options for financing health care delivery in the state, including a publicly financed single-payer system.

Other options that would be studied under the bill include:

-- One that allows a consumer to choose between a publicly funded plan and private insurance coverage and allows “fair and robust” competition between public plans and private insurance.

-- The current health care financing system in Oregon.

-- Any other options deemed worthy of consideration by the researchers doing the study.

There’s no chance that a single-payer system could be implemented until 2017, when states can seek waivers under the federal Affordable Care Act.

But Portland Rep. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, has long been an advocate for a single-payer system. He and other health care reformers are following a playbook that was pioneered in Vermont: A similar study there was a key step toward that state adopting a modified single-payer plan.

The hope in Oregon is that a tough-minded and fair feasibility study will help lay the groundwork for a serious discussion here about a single-payer system.

Everyone knows something has to change in our stressed health care system. A single-payer system may be the best option.

But it will be easier to tell with a solid study in hand analyzing how its costs stack up against other options. Advocates are betting on a single-payer option: The study mandated by HB 3260 would help us see if that’s a bet that will pay off.