With the costs of health care continuing to spiral nationally, systemic reform at both the federal and state levels is essential to in order to keep Oregon's people and its economy healthy.
Thanks to landmark legislation passed in the 2009 session, the percentage of Oregon children without health insurance has fallen from 11.3% to 5.6%. In other words, more children are receiving regular and preventative medical care instead of using costly emergency room visits for all of their health care needs. Fewer families face financial ruin if their children get sick.
The reform work continued in 2011. Under Senate Bill 99, the newly created Oregon Health Insurance Exchange will give over 350,000 Oregonians access to a market place for purchasing affordable and quality health insurance. The Exchange will help consumers and small businesses make "apples to apples" comparisons between health plans. At the same time they can access federal tax credits designed to lower the cost of insurance premiums. This combination of the market and tax credits should simultaneously increase access to health insurance while reducing its cost.
House Bill 3650, known as the "Health Care Transformation" initiative, will create Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) aimed at improving access to medical care and lowering costs for Oregon's 600,000 Medicaid beneficiaries. The idea behind CCOs is to improve the quality of care by integrating and coordinating access to a wide range of medical services, ranging from a routine visit with a primary care physician to mental health and addiction services.
Much work remains to be done on health care reform. But we should be encouraged. When these major 2009 and 2011 developments are viewed in combination, Oregon continues to lead the way nationally in new approaches to the delivery of affordable health care.