Dembrow Resurrects Healthcare Study Bill

From Chris Gray of the Lund Report:

Sen. Michael Dembrow’s bill to study healthcare financing in Oregon died on Friday, but it rose again on Sine Die Monday, as Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, reaffirmed his support in a 16-14 vote on the final day of the 2015 legislative session.

Near the start of the Monday morning Senate floor session, Bates said he was changing his vote “with two broken arms,” and while he’d offer his begrudging support, he highlighted the single-payer aspect of the study and described it as a lost cause.

“I think we’re going to spend $300,000 in this state on something that’s not going to happen,” said Bates, an osteopathic family physician. “I don’t want to spend money on this [study] ever again. Our present healthcare system is barely sustainable and I don’t want to put any more load on it.”

Bates had been a sponsor of House Bill 2828, but in a moment of fatigue and frustration on Friday, his nay vote sank the bill, as its supporters looked on, stunned. His opposition led a Republican supporter, Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem, to switch her vote, and Democratic Sens. Mark Hass of Beaverton and Chuck Riley of Hillsboro also voted it down.

The senator from Ashland was clearly frustrated that Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, had kept the Senate in session at 6 p.m. on a holiday, while Bates had to drive five hours back to Southern Oregon. He complained aloud on the floor about having to make the long return trip, pleading with Courtney to not require an early-morning session Monday.

Bates is equally passionate about shaping public policy and practicing medicine. Since February, he has kept a grueling weekly schedule of four days of lawmaking in Salem, followed by three days at his clinic in Jackson County.

Dembrow never regained the support of Hass or Winters, both of whom supported an unfunded study in 2013, along with Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose and three other Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg. All Democrats and one Republican -- Rep. Andy Olson of Albany -- supported HB 2828 in an earlier House vote.

Now that the study looked to actually be going forward, Johnson suddenly had concerns that it might be tainted by a small amount of private funding from the Northwest Health Foundation that will supplement state resources.

House Bill 2828 authorizes $300,000 for the Oregon Health Authority to oversee a comprehensive study of healthcare financing in Oregon, one that will look at a number of possible situations, including single payer, a public option on the insurance exchange, and a full rollout of the Affordable Care Act, possibly with a Basic Health Plan for working-class residents.

Dembrow highlighted the support of Oregon Health & Science University President Dr. Joe Robertson, the Oregon Public Health Association and the Oregon Medical Association. Aside from examining the expansion of a Medicare-like system -- the single-payer option -- Dembrow hinted that HB 2828 could give the state insights into less revolutionary reform efforts.

“The results of this study could strengthen the existing CCO system,” he said, referring to the coordinated care organizations that manage the Oregon Health Plan for low-income residents.

Single-payer advocates have also said they will use the results of the study to serve as the backbone for a ballot measure charging the Oregon Legislature with implementing a universal healthcare system. Measure 91, legalizing recreational marijuana sales, was approved by the voters but carried out by the Legislature, and had a similar implementation structure.

Although Dr. John Kitzhaber, the former Oregon governor, has always taken an ambivalent stance towards single payer, Kruse tied Kitzhaber to HB 2828 like an albatross, now that he no longer supports the study: “Our former governor, who resigned in disgrace, was always a supporter of single payer. … Friends, a move to have the government take control of healthcare is one of the worst things we can do for our citizens.”

Another Republican, Sen. Brian Boquist of McMinnville, was more judicious. He said he did not actually oppose the study, he just thought the Oregon Health Authority was wasting well more than $300,000 in its existing $19.5 billion budget through duplicative programming. “We just need to tell them to go study it,” he said.

Jul 7 2015

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Healthcare Financing Study Bill Clears Difficult Hurdle with $300,000

In the words of Betty Johnson of MVHCA and HCAO:

"HB 2828 was passed by the full Ways and Means Committee. It had previously passed the Health and Human Services sub-committee of Ways & Means. Now the bill will be part of the total state budget which will be acted upon by the Senate and the House. Good news!"

Here are the details from the Lund Report:

A study first conceived by Sen. Michael Dembrow in 2013 that passed without funding, has repassed with $300,000 in state money after private donations came up short. Support for the study has a bipartisan history, but as a thorough and objective study comes closer to a reality, the political pressure mounts against it. The state money, however, is enough for the study to move forward.

Chris Gray

The Oregon universal healthcare financing study bill cleared the top budget committee after a contentious hearing Monday, with $300,000 attached to design the best way of financing a universal healthcare system in Oregon.

House Bill 2828 has been a top priority of Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, as well as single-payer activists, who believe it will lead to their preferred method of healthcare financing system through a government-managed health insurance plan. But the bill specifically asks for an objective study weighing four options, pointedly not recommending any option such as single payer.

The hearing was subject to an array of misinformation about the bill, perhaps the result of behind-the-scenes pressure from the hospital and insurance industry lobbies, which could stand to lose millions if Oregon adopted single-payer. Now, a substantial amount of money spent by government and Oregon businesses intended for patient care is being diverted to industry profits and lucrative salaries for hospital management even at non-profit hospitals.

In particular, Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who had previously supported an unfunded study in 2013, joined all but one of the Republicans in opposing HB 2828 in the Ways & Means Committee, telling her colleagues she was worried that private money could bias the outcome, since the study was projected to cost twice as much as the state allocation -- $600,000 -- and was relying on private sources for the reminder.

“What I’m worried about is a tsunami of private contributions that could come flooding in to influence the outcome,” Johnson posited.

“I would be a yes if I thought the study would be objective, but I don’t see there’s any way,” said Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, a dentist. “I think right now we’re a bunch of lemurs heading off the cliff, and you’re going to have a bunch of lemurs doing the study.”

In fact, HB 2828 came about because that unfunded 2013 study only attracted about $50,000 in pledges and donations, too little to do a study. As Dembrow explained later to The Lund Report, the $300,000 in state money will be enough for the Oregon Health Authority to move forward with the study. And if any additional private donations were to influence the outcome, it would defeat the purpose of the study and discredit the outcome, which is informational and non-binding.

“I think we will be prepared to go forward with the study with the $300,000, and money we’ve already raised. The more we put into the study, the more the researchers will be able to answer,” Dembrow said. “The results of the study won’t do any good if they’re perceived to be tainted. We’re hoping it will put forward credible, Oregon-focused information.”

“That’s enough to do a good study,” agreed Dr. Sam Metz, a Portland anesthesiologist who has had the difficult task of soliciting private funds since 2013. “Most of the Legislature who are aware of the study know that it’s a value.”

Dembrow said since a lot of scholarship has already been completed on healthcare financing in the United States, the researchers could piggyback on that work, although with more money, they could do a more thorough analysis. The study could possibly be conducted by healthcare researchers at Oregon State University,by another university or by health financing experts at a private firm such as Wakely Consulting, but any contract would be awarded through an open bidding process.

The concept for a study has a much more bipartisan history than what appeared at Monday’s hearing, when just one Republican, Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem, supported the measure. In 2013, Johnson as well as two Republicans who are now on the Ways & Means Committee supported an unfunded predecessor health financing study, Sen. Bill Hansell of Pendleton and Rep. Gene Whisnant of Sunriver.

On the floor, Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg and Rep. Andy Olson of Albany had supported House Bill 3460, paying deference to part of the study that will look at a bare-bones universal health coverage plan that could potentially be funded by a sales tax -- a longtime goal of former Sen. Frank Morse, a progressive Republican from Albany. It also had the support of 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point.


You can help MVHCA as we work for publicly funded universal health care like the rest of the developed world by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.


Advocates Needed for May 4 SB 631 Hearing

The Oregon Senate Health Care Committee has scheduled a hearing for SB 631, Michael Dembrow’s 2015 Health Care for All Oregon Act on May 4, 2015. The hearing will be at the Oregon State Capitol,  900 Court St NE, Salem, in Hearing Room A. Please attend to show support for affordable, publicly funded, universal health care.

To help people get to the hearing, HCAO has a carpool page setup. Use this carpool tool to request a ride, or to offer rides.

Click here to join the event on Facebook and invite your friends.

 

You can help MVHCA as we work for single payer health care by donatinghosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. You can also Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter. Thank you.

Photos of the February 11 Rally in Salem

We had a large and enthusiastic turnout for the Health Care for ALL rally on  February 11 at the  capitol in Salem. Thanks to all who attended and helped out.

You can help MVHCA as we work for Improved Medicare for All by  hosting a house party, signing up for the newsletter, and attending our monthly meetings. Thank you.

Thank you to Mina Carson, Sandra Bean, and Amy Roy for their photos. Mina's full album of rally photos can be found here.

Vermont Worker's Center Executive Director visits Portland!

At the June 6th meeting in Portland, Vermont Workers Center Executive Director, James Haslam, told Health Care for ALL Oregon advocates that supporting workers rights is a lifelong commitment. He encouraged advocates to be very strategic over the long term and reminded them that Martin Luther King urged activists to "move from civil rights to human rights".

Haslam reported that Vermont is now challenged by its biggest legislative struggle: determining the scope of benefits and specifically how their health care plan will be financed. The intent is to present these components to the Vermont legislature in 2015.


Haslam urged advocates to look at the health care system through the lens of the six principles: universality, equity,accountability, transparency, participation, public good, and then to INDICT the health care system for its failures to measure up to these principles.

Oregon's health care champion, Senator Michael Dembrow, joined Haslam in answering numerous questions from participants. He agreed with Haslam that the most important aspect of our efforts is grassroots organizing.

Sen. Dembrow said grassroots organizing is simple...just like Amway. If we have 10 supporters and each goes and talks to 10 more people, and each of them recruits `10 more supporters, and on and on.......soon we will have the 1 million voters it takes to pass our universal, publicly funded health care legislation!! Sen. Dembrow summarized that we need a strong grassroots movement to show the Oregon legislature that HCAO is strong enough to succeed when the legislation is referred to the voters in 2016.