News From Around the Northwest

Supporters of a proposal to cover the medical costs of all Oregon children rallied at the state Capitol on Friday.

A pair of bills under consideration in Salem would extend Oregon Health Plan coverage to include kids who are in the country illegally.


Democratic Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon's district includes Woodburn. She told the crowd the proposal would help some of the most vulnerable people she represents.

Oregon lawmakers have signed off on a bill that would make it easier for transgender people to change their identity on state government documents like a drivers license or birth certificate.


The Senate voted 23-6 Wednesday to approve the bill, which now heads to Gov. Kate Brown's desk.

Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said the bill would remove unnecessary barriers for transgender people.

Many health care organizations are putting plans on hold as they wait to see what happens with the Affordable Care Act.

But one Oregon clinic is expanding anyway.

Virginia Garcia Memorial Health is a series of 16 clinics dotted around Washington and Yamhill Counties. They serve Medicaid patients, undocumented people who don’t have health insurance, and thousands of children.

As Oregon lawmakers grapple with a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, even some legislative leaders are having trouble gaining traction for their priorities.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, made the case Monday for keeping mental health programs off the chopping block in the upcoming spending plan.

"There are cuts and there are cuts," Courtney said to reporters in his state Capitol office. "I think mental health is taking a disproportionate amount of cuts. And there are certain things you can't cut as much as others."

Oregon is in the midst of a syphilis epidemic according to the Oregon Health Authority. Cases of the disease have increased 2,000 percent over the last decade.

Back in 2007, syphilis had all but been eradicated in Oregon. There were just 26 cases.

Last year, there were close to 570.

Sean Shaffer with the OHA's Public Health Division said he’s very concerned.

The State of Oregon wants doctors to conduct a full patient evaluation when recommending medical marijuana.

The Oregon Health Authority is asking doctors to obtain a comprehensive medical history for patients, perform a complete physical, discuss the risks of cannabis and maintain detailed records.

Josh Taylor with the Oregon Cannabis Association thinks a full exam is a fair requirement, but he’s worried patients might have to pay another couple of hundred dollars to get their treatment.

Last year about 130,000 Oregonians enrolled in individual health insurance.

So far this year more than 150,000 have signed up with

That’s a 14 percent increase.

But what’ll happen if Obamacare is repealed?

“We know that today the law is in place and if you pay your premium, you will get coverage for that month,” said Lisa Morawski with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

The head of one of Oregon’s largest health insurers, Moda Health, said the company will remain in the individual market for now.

But speaking on OPB’s Think Out Loud, Robert Gootee, said he’s worried about what will replace the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have said is a priority under the Trump Administration.

“I think one of the things a Republican administration is going to have to do between now and April is to provide some certainly in the markets," Gootee said. "Which is what the original Obamacare and the ACA market did with risk abatement programs."

The chief budget-writers for the Oregon Legislature have released a spending proposal that includes cuts to state programs.

The proposal issued Thursday outlines how lawmakers might bridge an expected budget gap.

Revenues continue to grow in Oregon, but the cost of providing services is growing faster, adding up to a $1.8 billion shortfall for the two-year budget cycle that starts in July, according to the co-chairs of the Legislature's budget-writing committee.

Almost 30 percent of Americans will experience chronic pain in their lifetime. And the opioids used to reduce that pain have proved highly addictive for many.

Now, a study out of Oregon Health And Science University suggests a new way of treating chronic pain with marijuana.

Working on rodents, senior author Susan Ingram looked at cannabis and the ability of the body’s own cannabinoid system to control pain.

The president of Oregon Health And Science University isn’t waiting to see what Republicans do with the Affordable Care Act. In anticipation of deep cuts, he’s stopping the hiring of most new staff.

As a large, urban teaching hospital, OHSU gets a disproportionate share of Medicaid patients. For example, OHSU is responsible for close to 20 percent of all the money spent on hospitalizing them in Oregon.

Speaking at a forum Friday, former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said the Trump administration represents a chance to re-frame the debate on health care.

The Portland City Club forum was entitled "Blue States And Health Care Under President Trump."

But Kitzhaber, a Democrat who resigned amid scandal two years ago, said it would be a mistake to segment into red and blue states.

He said both the Affordable Care Act and one of the main Republican replacement ideas are flawed because they don’t address the underlying reason health care is so expensive.

When a couple grows old, one spouse often gets sick and needs long-term care — like a nursing home. That can cost $6,000 a month.

To qualify for Medicaid, couples often transfer the title for an asset, like a home, to the other spouse.

In 2008, the state tightened the rule governing asset ownership in an effort to recover more money. Now the Oregon Supreme Court has found that exceeded the state’s authority.

Attorney Tim Nay said they’re looking for families to come forward.

About 900 service and maintenance workers at PeaceHealth Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington, have voted to unionize.

The hospital employees will join the American Federation of Teachers, the union announced last week.

“The union is a vehicle for these workers to help their patients and themselves—to ensure the patients they serve receive the care they need, and to fight for the wages and fair treatment on the job that every worker at PeaceHealth deserves,” Randi Weingarten, AFT President said in a statement.

A new law this year in Oregon requires insurance companies to cover a 12-month supply of prescription birth control, but its backers say some insurers haven't gotten the message.

One of those backers is Mary Nolan, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, which helped lead the push for the 2015 legislation. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is trying to squeeze a new, slimmed-down health care waiver out of the federal government — before the Trump administration starts.

Oregon has had a Medicaid waiver since 1994 when former Gov. John Kitzhaber started the Oregon Health Plan.

The latest extension was granted in 2012 and sunsets next year. It allowed the state to roll out a new system of Coordinated Care Organizations.

Oregonians have a 1 in 200 chance of being diagnosed with HIV, according to the CDC.

But the Oregon Health Authority thinks that by focusing on three key strategies, all new infections can be stopped by 2021.

Dr. Sean Schafer with the Public Health Division said the first strategy is get more testing for the infection done in the state.

Oregon has plenty to lose when it comes to President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to change the nation’s health care system.

His surprise victory threatens state officials’ hope of plugging a looming budget hole with $1.25 billion in federal health care reform payments, and his vow to immediately repeal Obamacare creates uncertainty for more than 470,000 Oregonians who received coverage or subsidies under the law.

Every dollar a state spends on mental health cuts about 25 cents from jail expenditures, according to a new study from Oregon State University.

The study, published in the journal "Social Science & Medicine," looked at 44 states and Washington, D.C., over a period of nine years.

Professor Jangho Yoon with the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, says 35 of the states could have reduced their jail populations by spending more money on inpatient mental health care.

The Oregon Medical Board has opened an investigation of Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center physician Dr. Robert Allen Read, after receiving “credible information” about his actions. Read agreed to a Stipulated Interim Order, requiring him to withdraw from practicing medicine while the investigation is underway.