Oregon House Bill 2922

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  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 developed world.

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 study.

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.

Contrasting Systems

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 patchwork system.”



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