Thursday, October 1, 2009

Oregon’s Prescription for Health Care Reform


Amidst all the yelling and screaming about health care reform that’s been going on nationally, Oregon lawmakers passed sweeping health reforms—one of AARP Oregon’s top priorities—this legislative session.

Despite a dismal economy, the state will add more Oregonians to the ranks of the insured—more than any other state—in the coming year and puts several other measures into motion to control costs, improve delivery and quality, and ensure transparency and accountability.

“It became clear that investing in health and tackling health care reform was one of the most promising solutions to creating a healthy Oregon and addressing and turning around the state’s economic woes, which were fueled by growing job losses and soaring health costs hurting individuals, families and businesses alike,” said Jerry Cohen, State Director of AARP Oregon. “It’s a universal challenge that truly affects everyone and knows no political bounds. Hopefully, we can show the country that it can and needs to be done.”

Cohen said the reforms in House Bills 2009 and 2116 were based on recommendations of the Oregon Health Fund Board, which counted AARP Oregon’s Volunteer State President Ray Miao of Bend among its seven members. The board developed its plan over the past two years after nearly 100 public meetings and gathering citizen input from every corner of the state as well as international, national and state policy experts. Senate Bill 329, another top AARP priority, created the Board and started the process in the 2007 legislative session.

The reforms underway include:

  • Expanding health coverage to 80,000 children and 35,000 more low-income adults. Called Healthy Kids, the program is being rolled out in three phases, beginning now and continuing through January 2010. Call 877-314-5678 toll-free or visit now to learn more and enroll your children or grandchildren today.
  • Creating a new regulatory agency, the Oregon Health Authority, that will join together most of the state’s health-related programs into one streamlined entity. The Authority, overseen by a nine-member, citizen-led board called the Oregon Health Policy Board, will lead reform efforts, maximize efficiencies and reduce duplicative efforts.
  • Creating a statewide database of all health care claims by all medical providers so consumers can make more informed health decisions based on both cost and quality outcomes.
  • Increasing the focus on prevention and disease management by coordinating patient-centered care through “primary care homes.”
  • Standardizing and simplifying insurance paperwork to lower costs and cut through the red tape that hampers and slows down patient care.
  • Requiring transparency and accountability of health care dollars by requiring timely, transparent reporting of construction and technology investments as well as increasing the input process prior to insurance rate increases and decisions.
  • Investing in health technology, workforce development and a health insurance exchange will allow easy, protected sharing of medical information between providers, ensure access to quality care no matter where you live, and to provide one-stop shopping to insurance options for individuals and businesses.

Duane Anderson, a semi-retired audiologist from Portland, has been a long-time AARP volunteer, advocating for passage of health reform legislation in both the 2007 and 2009 Oregon Legislature. He and his wife, Dana, are raising their now 5-year-old granddaughter, Victory.

“Whether it’s ensuring all kids have access to health care, controlling skyrocketing costs or putting a focus on wellness and disease prevention, Oregon’s on the right track,” Anderson said. “It’s rewarding to have been part of something that will make such a positive difference in the health of Oregonians of all ages and that can be a catalyst and model of change for the country.”

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