Oregon Health care reform needs swift Federal Boost

by Lesley Politi on December 2, 2008

Oregon health care reform needs swift federal boost

by The Oregonian editorial board

Wednesday November 26, 2008, 4:06 PM

Oregon’s newly minted blueprint for health care reform calls for achieving its objectives “in a reasonable time — less than a decade.”

But “less than a decade” is not nearly urgent enough for thousands of middle-class Oregonians and employers struggling with soaring health care costs and insurance premiums. This was made abundantly clear in public comment to the Oregon Health Fund Board, which toiled for nearly a year on the 162-page proposal delivered Tuesday to Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The plan, if enacted by the Legislature, would fairly quickly provide coverage to about 200,000 additional low-income children and adults who don’t have it now. But reaching the broader goal of “world-class health for all Oregonians” would take up to 10 years.

That’s no good for middle-class people such as Steve and Kathy Brown of Northeast Portland. On Tuesday, The Oregonian’s Bill Graves told the story of how the couple were left financially clobbered after Steve Brown suffered a stroke, even though both had jobs and health insurance.

Sadly, the state can’t overhaul health care in Oregon fast enough to spare the Browns from medical and financial despair. And Oregon can’t do it at all without national reform as well.

Just how badly broken is the U.S. health care system? The nation’s annual health care spending per capita is the highest in the world by far, yet Americans live shorter lives than people in many other countries. And the most damning statistic of all: America’s infant mortality rate ranks only 29th in the world, tied with Slovakia and Poland.

It’s encouraging that the administration of President-elect Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate appear poised to take a serious run at comprehensive health care reform — the first such effort in 15 years. Out of it, if we’re lucky, could come a new system that not only makes sure all Americans have insurance but also makes sure the coverage and health care are affordable for people like the Browns.

In the meantime, the recommendations of the Oregon Health Fund Board deserve serious consideration in Salem. Legislators should move swiftly to enact the board’s call for providing health coverage for more than 100,000 uninsured children and 100,000 more low-income adults during the next two years, funding it primarily by expanding medical provider taxes.

To its credit, the seven-member board wants the state to do much more than provide health insurance to more people. The document presented Tuesday lays forth a strategy for transforming Oregon’s health care system, “increasing health outcomes and reducing costs.”

That, of course, is precisely what needs to happen nationally. To the extent that
Congress and the Obama administration succeed, the plan put forward by the
Oregon Health Fund Board would position this state, not soon but someday, to have one of the best health care programs in the country.

–Bob Caldwell,

Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2008/11/oregon_health_care_reform_need.html

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