June 7, 2011 – A bill that sets in motion the creation of a health insurance exchange in Oregon passed the House of Representatives today with 48 votes in favor and 12 opposed.
Having already passed the Senate, the bill now goes to the Governor for his expected signature.
Rep. Jim Thompson (R-Dallas) called SB 99 the “most maligned bill” to come out of the healthcare committee this session.
“This has been unfairly connected to Obamacare,” said Thompson who recalled discussions of a health insurance exchange in Oregon in 2004.
The basic idea is to provide a one-stop shop for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance that will pool their buying power and bring down rates through market forces. The exchange will also be the only place where people can receive federal subsidies to purchase insurance.
Most importantly, said Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Portland) is the freedom the exchange will provide for small business owners. The exchange will give employees the opportunity to choose their own health plan rather than their employer deciding for them.
“Health insurance purchasing is a major headache,” Cannon said.
“Here’s an opportunity to offload that responsibility.”
Rep. Jim Weidner (R-Yamhill) said he opposed the exchange because it won’t reduce costs. Weidner also questioned the use of $48 million to design the information and technology aspect of the exchange. He pointed to Utah, which he said spent just $600,000 on their exchange.
“You could buy an incredible software company for $48 million,” Weidner said. “This doesn’t make sense. We’ve done nothing of any substance to really drive down the cost of care.”
In the end, the bill’s supporters successfully argued that doing nothing and allowing the federal government to impose an exchange on Oregon was unacceptable.
“We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland).
With passage of SB 99, the
Oregon Health Authority Governor will appoint representatives to the nine-member board of directors, which will create a business plan for the public corporation that will operate the exchange. That business plan must then be approved by the legislature in February 2012.
In a press release, Laura Etherton, OSPIRG's healthcare advocate, said, "We urge the exchange board and lawmakers to ensure the business plan for the exchange includes having the exchange negotiate for lower costs and better choices, just as large employers are able to do now.
"We also urge all Oregon consumers, small businesses and taxpayers to make their voices heard in the public process to develop Oregon’s health insurance exchange to make sure it is accountable and transparent, and drives the best value for Oregonians’ healhcare dollars.".
To Learn More
Bookmark/Search this post with