|May 2013, Oregon House Bill 2922, which would throw
out the private health insurance industry and set up a
single-payer health insurance system administered by the
Oregon Health Authority.
The bill has no chance of passage this session,
but House Health Committee Chairman Rep. Mitch Greenlick allowed fellow
Portland Democrat and chief sponsor Rep. Michael Dembrow to lead
single-payer health care advocates in an informational public hearing.
Brain and other activists aired their support for a privately delivered,
government-sponsored health system that would revolutionize Oregon
healthcare and make it similar to health systems in
Japan, Europe, Canada and the rest of the
HB 2922 closely parallels House Bill 3510 from the 2011 session,
but at 76 pages, it’s 30 percent longer than the previous measure, repealing
newly acted reforms such as Cover Oregon, which offers subsidized private
insurance for people with moderate incomes.
No Republicans have yet come on board as supporters, but the single-payer
bill has twice as many sponsors this session from Democrats across the
state, including rural districts as well as Portland and Eugene. Two of the
state’s largest unions – the Oregon Nurses
Association and the Oregon Education
Association – have also thrown their support behind the measure.
Study Bill Moves Forward
Dembrow has also sponsored House Bill 3260, which had a budget
hearing on Tuesday. That bill, which passed unanimously earlier this session
from the House Health Committee, would solicit $250,000 to $600,000 in
private funds to comprehensively study how best to
implement universal healthcare in Oregon.
The study will look at several different options, including single-payer,
a public option and the basic health plan envisioned for low-income people
who wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid by the Affordable Care Act.
Chunhuei Chi, a professor at Oregon State University’s College of Public
Health and Human Sciences, told The Lund Report the study would aim for
transparency, be replicable and available for peer review. The Oregon Health
Authority could either choose Oregon State or another entity to conduct the
Previously, Health Care for All Oregon, which supports the
single-payer bill, had considered asking the Northwest Health Foundation to
conduct such a study. But according to Dembrow, a state-sanctioned study
would lend more credibility.
Earlier, he told The Lund Report that while he expects single
payer the best route to universal healthcare, he believes the underlying
bill is written well enough to turn into the best solution for Oregon, and
he will support its recommendations.
“This is exactly the way it’s done,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward,
D-Portland, who favors doing such a study but has not come out in support of
the single-payer option. “I like that you’ve laid out a menu of options, and
that it doesn’t make a predetermined decision,” she added, calling the study
outcome-based rather than motivated by political ideology.
Alan Journet, a retired professor and dual British-U.S. citizen, pointed
out that in Great Britain, socialized
medicine is so popular even Conservative icon, former Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher, was a big supporter.
Dembrow praised the reform efforts of Gov. Kitzhaber to deliver
healthcare for the poor through coordinated care organizations and also
lauded many of the aspects of the Affordable Care Act, including the
expanded Oregon Health Plan and the insurance exchange. Yet, he said these
reforms fall far short of an equitable
universal healthcare system.
“We’ll continue to have jobs kept temporary or part-time for no good
reason other than to keep workers from being eligible for coverage,” he
said. “Our system will still rely on private
insurance companies who charge high administrative fees, create
administrative burdens for doctors and other healthcare professionals, and
whose primary interest is their own profits.
… At best what we’re going to continue to have an expensive, complicated