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.

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The HB 3260 Study Will Tell Us How to Provide Health Care for ALL Oregonians. Please Donate Now to Help Fund the Study.

We need your donation to make the study happen because the legislature did not fund it. HB 3260 authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to contract a third party to study Oregon’s health care financing options.

The bill stipulates the ideal health care system will:

  • Provide universal access to comprehensive care at the appropriate time.

  • Allow choice of provider.

  • Reduce administrative costs.

  • Use sufficient, fair, and sustainable financing.

  • Ensure adequate compensation of providers.

  • Include physical, dental, vision, and mental health care.

  • Be affordable for individuals, families, businesses, and state and local governments.

The study will examine at least four options for financing health care:

  1. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act including private health insurance exchanges and the Oregon Integrated and Coordinated Health Care Delivery System (Health Care Transformation process).

  2. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act with the addition of a public option and including the basic health program of the Affordable Care Act.

  3. Publicly financed, privately delivered single payer health care, decoupled from employment.

  4. A plan selected by the OHA that makes available to every Oregonian essential health benefits, including preventive care and hospital services, using private insurance and privately delivered health care

Researchers must consider previous health care financing studies in Oregon and other states, the impact on Oregon’s Health Care Transformation process, and compliance with the Affordable Care Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and other relevant federal law.

The study must consider the impact of each option on individuals, businesses, the economy of the state including employment, and budget impacts to state and local governments.

The final report must include a recommendation for the option that best satisfies the criteria specified in the bill.

More Information

Oregon businesses should chip in for universal health care study. You Can too!

One would have to live in a cave not to know that health care in America is changing.  Three key issues driving these changes are the need to reduce costs, improve health outcomes and cover more people.  As business owners, we believe these are important goals.  

Which prompts the question, will the Affordable Care Act take us where we need to go?  

When the ACA is fully operational, many more Oregonians will be covered, the exclusion for pre-existing conditions will have ended and many other benefits will accrue.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis, however, shows the ACA will reduce government spending but increase total spending. This means families and businesses will pay $130 billion more annually for health care than we do now.

In terms of health outcomes, the Massachusetts experience with a similar system shows no improvement in public health. In contrast, medical bankruptcies rose 30 percent and health care costs there are rising faster than any other region.

And the bottom line? The ACA will not cover everyone in Oregon. Many will still lack coverage.

So what’s the alternative?

More here.

If you are interested in helping to fund this important study, checks should be made out to “Northwest Health Foundation Fund II” and designated “HB 3260 Health Care Financing Study” and sent to:
Northwest Health Foundation
221 NW Second Ave, Suite 300
Portland, Oregon 97209