Chris Gray

Drug Companies Back Again to Protect Patents for Biologics and Insulin

SB 147, as heard by the Senate Health Committee, would lift an expiration date on a law that restricts pharmacists’ ability to prescribe biosimilars, or generic alternatives to complex biological drugs. The bill also expands that law to include insulin. California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a very similar law, citing increased costs to state-purchased health plans.

Like a clump of Scotch broom sprouting each year on Oregon hillsides no matter how many times it gets pulled, the pharmaceutical companies are repeating their efforts from past sessions to restrict the ability of pharmacists to dispense generic or “biosimilar” alternatives to so-called biological

House Passes Bill Requiring ERs to Document Forced Seclusion of Mental Patients

HB 2363 puts Oregon Health Authority administrative rules into statute in an effort to minimize the use of non-therapeutic isolation of patients who come to emergency rooms during a mental breakdown but are locked in a room while receiving minimal treatment. Some Republicans objected to micro-managing the administrative process with a new law.

The Oregon House passed a bill Thursday that will require physicians working in hospital emergency rooms and other temporary settings to document every time they order a patient to be isolated because of a mental health crisis.

Oregon Moves Towards Opening Telemedicine to People’s Homes

SB 144 requires health insurance companies to pay for medical and mental health visits provided by two-way video chat, regardless of setting. Supporters of the bill, including Providence and ZoomCare, were able to thwart a last-ditch effort by Regence and Health Net to delay the law; if passed, it takes effect in January.

The Senate Health Committee sent a bill to the floor Wednesday to move telemedicine services beyond the clinic or hospital setting to a client or patient’s home with unanimous, bipartisan support.

Keny-Guyer Hoping Fourth Time a Charm for Toxic-Free Kids Act

The proposed Oregon law would copy a Washington law on disclosure but then strengthen it to phase out hazardous chemicals in children’s products and replace them with safer alternatives. SB 478 maintains bipartisan support in the House and the increased Democratic majority should allow the bill to over-rule Sen. Betsy Johnson, a friend of the chemistry council who opposes the bill.

Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer rolled out her Toxic-Free Kids Act for the fourth time in her four years as a legislator from Southeast Portland on Monday, and this time around, the increased Democratic majority may be what it takes to put one of her flagship issues into law.

Health Co-Op Wants More Transparency from Insurance Division

Oregon’s Health Co-Op, which has struggled to get a foothold in the Oregon insurance market, has proposed legislation to provide insurers a better appeal process while requiring the Insurance Division to better explain its rate-setting decisions for plans sold on the individual and small business markets.

The Oregon Health Co-Op wants significant changes to the state’s health insurance rate review program, which its president says will provide more transparency to the review process and a better chance for due process than currently exists.

Bill Dissolving Cover Oregon Heads to Governor, Over Oracle Complaints

Oracle, the much-maligned software company that failed to build a functional insurance exchange for Oregon, has threatened to stop Senate Bill 1 from taking effect, but the bill had broad bipartisan support in the House to move the remaining state insurance exchange functions to the Department of Consumer & Business Services.

Ten Republicans joined all the House Democrats in Salem on Friday to send Senate Bill 1 to Gov.

Sen. Shields Want to Strip CCOs of Special Anti-Trust Exemption

In the Portland Democrat’s latest attempt to bring daylight into the murky operations of the state’s Medicaid health plans and providers, Shields has introduced Senate Bill 18, which eliminates their protection against charges of collusion. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling likely means the exemption is unconstitutional anyway and without legal grounds.

Sen. Chip Shields, D-Portland, has introduced legislation that would strip the coordinated care organizations of their anti-trust status that makes them immune from anti-competitive business practices.

Smooth Passage Expected for Four-Year, $1.4 Billion Hospital Tax

The hospital assessment tax, used to leverage federal funding for the Oregon Health Plan, was first proposed in 2003 and has been renewed multiple times, often with heated debate. But this time, Republicans are signaling they’re on board for the new assessment.

A four-year extension of the hospital assessment tax, which is used to fund the bulk of the state Medicaid program, appears headed for swift passage this session, without any of the partisan theatrics that have dogged previous extensions of the tax.

Senate Democrats Vote to Boost Injury Protection from Auto Insurance

Given a new supermajority by voters, Senate Democrats continue to check off legislation that passed the more liberal House in 2013 but died in the Senate. SB 411 brings Oregon more in line with other states and allows injured people to use money from both parties’ auto insurance policies in case of an accident, but it will likely raise premiums slightly.

The Oregon Senate passed a bill Tuesday aimed at giving people injured in car accidents a better guarantee that their medical treatment will be covered by auto insurance policies.

Basic Rights Oregon Wants Ban on Bogus Conversion Therapies for Minors

California became the first state to ban so-called gay conversion therapies for youth in 2012, and a New Jersey court later barred them from that state, deeming such therapy consumer fraud. As the Oregon Psychological Association testified, the evidence shows that reparative therapies are not only ineffective for gay clients, they are harmful, yet they remain in active practice by certain fringe Christian organizations and counselors.

Paul Southwick testified before the House Health Committee that he had his first dose of gay conversion therapy as a student at George Fox University, after a personal conflict over his attraction to other men led to a panic attack.

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