Chris Gray

AIDS Survivors Want Insurers to Cover Surgery for Disfigurements

Many older drugs to treat AIDS and HIV contribute to a condition called lipodystrophy -- abnormal atrophy and deposits of fatty tissue. The condition is often demoralizing as well as disfiguring, but some insurers don’t cover the liposuction and implants needed to correct the problem.

A group of AIDS survivors and people living with HIV want a law forcing health insurers and the Oregon Health Plan to cover procedures that treat the side effects of their illness and medication, including the atrophy of fat cells in some parts of the body and the growth of fat cells in others.

Steiner Hayward Wants to Make Employers Pick up Medicaid Tab for Employees

If a large employer has full-time employees that make such low wages that they qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, SB 997 would force the employers to pay a penalty to the state to offset its cost of providing medical assistance.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, has introduced a bill that would force large employers that have full-time employees on Medicaid to pay a penalty to the state that will offset the state’s cost of providing the Oregon Health Plan.

Public Health Raises Concerns over HIV Stigma in Bill to Protect Prison Workers

SB 367 will allow an easier trade of information between physicians when a corrections officer comes into contact with an inmate’s bodily fluid to know if the prisoner carried Hepatitis C or HIV. But a discussion about the risks of HIV and Hep C painted the picture that the prison workers must be quarantined even though their real chance of transmission is low.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday designed to protect corrections officers from exposure to HIV or Hepatitis C, but discussion around the bill may have sensationalized the risk of acquiring these diseases.

House Health Debates Forcing Reluctant Insurers to Cover Meningitis Vaccines

Faced with a $2.6 million bill for inoculating Oregon State students with an expensive new vaccine amid a meningitis outbreak, public health workers have struggled to get insurers to cover the students. The Senate at the same time debated informed consent for vaccinations.

While the House Health Committee considers a bill to help pay for mass vaccinations for meningitis outbreaks on college campuses, the Senate Health Committee debated three vaccine-related bills that public health advocates say could lower the immunization rate and erode herd immunity.

Oregon Senate Passes Bill that Studies Dental Care for COFA Community

Low-income COFA Islanders are shut out of the Oregon Health Plan because of federal funding restrictions, so the Legislature created a special private insurance plan for them. But it didn’t include dental care. Now, the Department of Consumer and Business Services may be ordered to study the feasibility of including this service in the COFA insurance program.

Oregon’s Pacific Islander community won a special health insurance program last year that provides basic health insurance at no cost to low-income islanders, but it came with one serious shortcoming -- it doesn’t cover dental care.

Asante and Salem Health Swoop in for Attempted Kill of ASC Expansion Bill

Despite a lengthy work group process and the support of Providence Health & Services, two major hospital systems are trying to stop ambulatory surgery centers from offering expanded hours and instead are trying to belabor the issue with yet another work group.

Salem Health and Asante Health System have made a last-ditch appeal to kill a bill to expand services at ambulatory care centers, in an apparent attempt to prevent competition.

Divided House Republicans Put Obamacare Overhaul on the Ropes

Vancouver’s Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has come out against the American Health Care Act, citing negative impacts on Medicaid services to disabled children. A vote on the bill was postponed on Thursday as Republicans lacked enough support for passage.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s healthcare overhaul has hit a jam in Congress, as he appears unable to craft an Obamacare repeal that will please both conservative hardliners and more moderate Republicans whose House seats could be at risk in the 2018 midterm elections.

Bipartisan Senate Votes to Raise Tobacco Age to 21

Two Republicans joined all 17 Senate Democrats to make it illegal to sell tobacco to people under 21, creating a uniform standard for adult substances such as alcohol and marijuana. The bill hit a few obstacles in the Senate, but an easier passage is likely in the House, where seven Republicans have co-sponsored the measure.

A bipartisan group of senators voted 19-8 on Thursday to raise the tobacco age to 21, matching the age of purchase and sale for alcohol and marijuana in Oregon.

Changes to Republican Health Bill Could Reduce but Not Eliminate Lopsided Negative Impact on Seniors

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a series of amendments that would moderate the impacts on Medicaid, particularly for long-term care services for the elderly and disabled. But without any changes, these services would see a $150 million cut and middle-income seniors would bear the heaviest cost in the individual health market.

The Republican health bill up for a vote in Congress tomorrow could come down hardest on seniors and people with disabilities, cutting $150 million from state programs and capping the amount of money the state can spend on long-term care services.

Patient Advocates Want Insurers to Offer Health Plans with Predictable Costs

When health insurers use coinsurance percentages to determine out-of-pocket costs to consumers, their bills can be wildly unpredictable and often prohibitively expensive. SB 237 would require that health insurers offer fixed copayments for prescription drugs in at least 25 percent of their plans.

Patient advocates have put forth a proposal that would require health insurers on the insurance exchange and in the employer market to design at least a quarter of their health plans to use only predictable copayments for prescription drugs rather than requiring consumers to pay coinsurance or face a deductible first.

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