portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting oregon & cascadia

government | health

Affordable Health Care Package Movement -- SB 501 passes state House

"Basically, it expands public access to the information," explained Rep. Brian Boquist, "Good bill, should pass!"
Last week, legislative leaders announced a budget deal had been reached and session would be coming to a close. Legislation, that had been stalled, has begun to move. SB 501, the Insurance Industry Accountability Act, is one such fortunate bill. On Tuesday, the House passed SB 501B with a vote of 57 to 1. The Senate concurred with the amendments and re-passed the bill Thursday with a vote of 17 to 10.

In addition to increased public information about health insurance companies, the amended version of SB 501 includes a requirement that periodic colorectal examinations be covered under health insurance policies. The next step for this bill is Governor Kulongoski's desk.

Another bill to move is SB 782 which passed the House unanimously, it eliminates the $6 monthly premium for Oregon Health Plan clients with incomes below 10% of the federal poverty line -- $77 a month for individuals and $112 for couples. SB 782 also relaxes the rules for premium payments for recipients with incomes up to the federal level.

The bill means it will take longer for DHS to reach its target for reducing membership in the OHP-Standard plan. The agency says it can afford to sustain 23,900 people on the plan. Currently about 25,700 people are enrolled. Eliminating premiums will lower revenues. As a result, the plan can afford to insure fewer people. But at the same time, the bill will allow more people to stay enrolled.

SB 1, the Mental Health Parity Act, passed from committee unanimously last week and will be on the House floor this week. The bill, requiring health insurers to cover mental health in the same way they treat physical conditions, is also supported by the governor.

The budget agreement announced by leadership continues to leave many behind. It proposes elimination of vision coverage for adults on the Oregon Health Plan-Plus and does not open enrollment for OHP-Standard. HB 2048 to restore the tobacco tax would help.

SB 1040 to increase health care cost transparency and SB 329 to expand the Prescription Drug Purchasing Pool, which have both passed the Senate, remain stalled in the House. Send a message of support for SB 1040 at:
 http://www.healthsecurityaction.com/campaign/yesonsb1040/step1.tcl

homepage: homepage: http://www.oregoniansforhealthsecurity.org/

Insurance Accountability Act Passes House, Goes to Governor 31.Jul.2005 19:35

SEIU

July 28, 2005
 http://www.seiu503.com/action/healthcare/sb501passed.cfm

Tuesday, Oregon's House of Representatives passed SB 501, the Insurance Accountability Act, by a 59-1 vote. The Governor is expected to sign this bill, which passed the Senate in May.

SB 501 is a response to the skyrocketing cost of insurance premiums. In 2004, the insurance industry made $229 million in profit four times their profit in 2003 while thousands of Oregonians lost health coverage.

"I really feel like our phone calls and visits to the Capitol paid off," said SEIU member Angela Miller, who works in LaGrande helping seniors and people with disabilities access resources so they may live as independently as possible.

"I'm glad to see our legislature doing something positive for everyday Oregonians."

Through what has been the third longest session in State history, hundreds of SEIU members met with legislators, and sent letters and emails urging their elected officials to enact legislation to lower health care costs.

"Insurance premiums continue to outpace workers' wages Oregonians should know how this money is being spent," said Arthur Towers, SEIU Local 503's Political Director.

The bill will give Oregon business owners and consumers information about premium increases, industry profit, and how much of consumers' health care dollars are spent on bureaucracy and administration.