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New year brings new laws on insurance coverage, Narcan availability and more

Health care bills that made it past the finish line during the last session are now law
A box of Narcan, an-opioid reversing drug, before it was distributed at a day shelter in Ontario, Ore. on Oct. 13, 2022. | KYLE GREEN/THE LUND REPORT
January 2, 2024

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, certain drugs will be more accessible at hospitals, a new tax kicks in to support Oregon’s mental health crisis hotline and insurers will have to cover a range of treatments. 

The start of the New Year marked the effective date for many laws approved by Oregon lawmakers. Despite a Republican-led Senate walkout that stalled business for six weeks, lawmakers still managed to pass many consequential health care bills last year. Here are some of the main ones.

Gender-affirming care: A major source of partisan rancor last session was House Bill 2002, a Democratic-backed bill intended to secure reproductive rights and access to gender-affirming care

A key provision of the bill went into effect on Jan. 1. Insurance companies are now required to cover surgeries for facial feminization, Adam’s apple-reduction, laser hair removal and other gender-affirming treatments ordered by physicians or behavioral health providers. 

The bill was passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down national abortion rights in 2022 and a growing movement seeking to limit gender-affirming care, particularly for minors. 

Preventive services coverage: Oregon officials have long embraced the federal Affordable Care Act since it was enacted in 2010 as a means to expand health care coverage. As the federal law continues to sustain legal challenges, Oregon has enshrined one of its key provisions into state statute. 

A federal lawsuit currently being litigated would strike down the Affordable Care Act’s preventative requirements that health plans cover preventive services without cost shares to patients. House Bill 2282 updates Oregon law to keep that provision in case the legal effort succeeds. 

PEP access: Oregon hospitals are now required to have a supply of drugs that can prevent infection of HIV if taken within 72 hours of exposure. House Bill 2574 is intended to reduce barriers that keep people from accessing post-exposure prophylactic drugs (often called “PEP”). 

Despite the medication’s effectiveness, health workers and others have reported difficulties getting it when they need it the most. The bill also requires the Oregon Health Authority to help supply hospitals with the drugs while preventing insurers from requiring cost shares to access it. 

988 funding: Cell phone bills will also get more expensive in 2024. Oregon lawmakers passed House Bill 2757, which funds the new 988 crisis hotline that includes a 40-cent monthly tax for cell phones. The tax is expected to raise $33 million in Oregon’s upcoming two-year budget and $54 million in the budget after that. The new hotline has been presented as a way to address mental and behavioral health crises before they require more expensive interventions. 

Avoiding overdoses: Hospitals, detoxification facilities and residential treatment facilities must provide two doses of overdose reversal medication, such as Narcan, to patients treated for opioid use disorder. The requirement is thanks to Senate Bill 1043, which lawmakers passed last session to address the state’s rising number of opioid overdoses

Nurse training: Despite overwhelming demand for nurses, Oregon schools just aren’t producing enough of them. Community colleges in the state can now offer bachelor of science degrees in nursing as a result of Senate Bill 523. The bill, was opposed by many leaders of nursing programs, is intended to widen the training pipeline for highly in-demand registered nurses. However, any new program still needs approval from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. 

Coverage mandates: Oregon lawmakers passed multiple bills requiring insurers to cover certain medical services or devices. Many went into effect with the New Year. 

House Bill 2994 expands coverage of bilateral cochlear implants, hearing aids and other technology for patients with hearing impairments. Senate Bill 1041 prohibits insurers from imposing cost shares on breast examinations. Senate Bill 797 requires insurers to cover prosthetic and orthotic devices.

Senate Bill 628 mandates insurers cover a treatment for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, known by their acronyms “PANDAS” and “PANS.” 

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via X @jakethomas2009.