We Can't Afford to Wait

Advocates rally for House reform bills

May 7, 2009 -- Advocates hold high a banner for drawing down all available federal funds to cover 180,000 Oregonians, and for addressing both system reform and expansion during this legislative session.

We simply cannot control costs and create a more equitable and efficient system without legislative action to implement the Oregon Health Fund Board's recommendations...all of them.

The current legislative vehicle for expansion is House Bill 2116. The best language for system reform is in House Bill 2009 -- a bill into which the Senate, by virtue of their great work on the cost-containment and delivery reform bills, and the House Health Care Committee along with hundreds of Oregonians and health advocacy organizations poured hours of time, attention, thought and energy.

In addition to cost-containment and delivery system reform concepts, HB 2009 lays out a clear vision for an Oregon Health Authority, an insurance exchange, an essential benefits package and a public option.

Watching what the industry tried to do on the Senate side as the final Senate bill developed -- eliminate or weaken the health authority; destroy one of the cornerstones of the Oregon Health Fund Board recommendations, the need to establish an essential benefits package as a floor for all health insurance products sold in Oregon; warp the construct of insurance rate review and regulation -- one can only assume they are not content with HB 2009.

With overwhelming public support for expansion, cost containment and system reform on their side, I look to Oregon legislators spearheading negotiations with the industry on revenue to hold firm on the bottom lines for both expansion and system reform. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

Ellen Pinney is executive director of the Oregon Health Action Campaign, which promotes comprehensive, quality healthcare for all by empowering consumers.

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For a detailed explanation of the differences between House and Senate versions of reform click here.

Call your legislator by dialing 503-986-1187 within Salem and 1-800-332-2313 outside Salem.

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