Chris Gray

Legislators Celebrate Achievements, Fret About Big Money’s Influence

Even as Democratic lawmakers celebrate new laws providing healthcare to immigrant kids and raising the age of purchasing tobacco, a continued fight over the provider tax dampens enthusiasm over the 2017 session.

The Oregon Legislature passed sweeping legislation around reproductive health, tobacco prevention and drug sentencing reform, but other priorities, such as protecting the state’s investment in Medicaid, protecting the environment and ensuring that hospitals deserve their tax-exempt status sputter

Legislature Closes Session with Long Line of Healthcare Bills

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Last-minute funding will provide for emergency housing assistance, Hepatitis C treatment and a short list of earmarks for clinic and hospital projects, including assistance for Cascade Aids Project’s new clinic.

The Legislature swept through a flurry of bills in the closing days of the session as the lawmakers approached their recess on Friday. Many of these came with little debate, but could still have profound effect on the health and well-being of Oregonians.

Legislature Passes New Standards for Long-Term Care and Referrals

Two consumer protection laws are designed to ensure quality and integrity among healthcare providers and agencies assisting Oregon seniors.

Strong bipartisan majorities have passed two bills to protect seniors, putting new quality controls into long-term care facilities and requiring referral agencies to register and act in their client’s interest.

Senate Clears Hospital Price Controls for Public Worker Health Plans

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems successfully lobbied to kill a measure to pay property taxes on clinics, a bill expanding hours at ambulatory surgery centers and a measure to make nonprofit hospitals to pay more on charity care -- but intense lobbying failed to block an end to price-gouging at OEBB and PEBB.

Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, overcame fierce lobbying from the hospital industry to shepherd a cost-containment bill through the Senate, saving the state $1 billion over the next decade, in part by eliminating hospital price-gouging of the health plans of state workers and teachers.

Oregon Set to Raise Age of Tobacco Sales To 21

In a ninth-inning victory for public health advocates, the Tobacco 21 bill resurfaced in the Oregon House, raising the age for the sale of cigarettes, but not the age of possession. The tobacco lobby hired former Sen. Margaret Carter to derail the bill.

The Oregon House of Representatives broke a legislative logjam and passed Senate Bill 754, which raises the legal age for the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21, on a 39-20 vote.

Kotek Kills OHA Rate-Setting Transparency Bill

FamilyCare had pushed for the measure, arguing that even information that the Oregon Health Authority submits to the federal government is kept from the public, making it difficult to divine how to operate in the capricious rate-setting environment.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, has spiked legislation backed by FamilyCare to force the Oregon Health Authority to be more transparent with its rate-setting process, dealing a blow to the continued operation of the state’s second-largest Medicaid operator.

Democrats Clear Reproductive Health Bill, Cutting Deal with Providence

The Catholic health insurer won an agreement that allows it to stand as the only participant in the insurance market that does not pay for abortions, as the state sets up a process to set up a work-around for these procedures.

The Committee on Ways & Means has cleared the women’s comprehensive health bill on a party-line vote, setting up an emotional floor debate at the end of the session.

Legislators Hash Out 15 Percent Rise in General Fund for DHS

Funding has been secured for Oregon Project Independence to allow seniors to stay in their homes, and for General Assistance, which helps disabled homeless people get housing. DHS will end its live-in caregiver program in October and the agency will also no longer allow private payers access to its registered home care workers.

The Department of Human Services budget for the next two years is poised to rise 5.8 percent over the last budget, increasing to $11.2 billion in total funds to pay for services for seniors citizens, foster children and people with disabilities.

Oregon Advocates Relieved McConnell Pulls Trumpcare, Anxious for Republicans’ Next Push

A CBO score shows that Trumpcare 3.0 would cause chaos to the individual health insurance market, even as it delays and blunts cuts to Medicaid. Sen. Ron Wyden credited grassroots activism for forcing Republicans’ hands, and asked that activists keep up the pressure.

Local healthcare advocates breathed a sigh of relief after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled his version of Trumpcare from the Senate floor on Tuesday, but they worried that the Republican health plan will just be resurrected next month, in a deja vu of what happened with the House ve

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