On Thursday, June 30th, the 2011 Oregon Legislature adjourned. This session will be remembered not only for its historic firsts, but for beginning the transition to a health care system that incentivizes primary and preventive care, seeks to improve population health, and to limit overall costs.
The 2011 Legislative Session was a historic session before it even began. This session was the first annual session of the Oregon Legislature, following voter approval last November. It was also the first time in Oregon’s History that the House has been evenly divided with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Governor Kitzhaber began a historic third term as Oregon’s Governor, and Senator Peter Courtney became the longest serving Senate President in Oregon history. The session also began with a backdrop of the ongoing recession, and an estimated budget shortfall of $3.5 billion over the next biennium.
With this difficult climate in mind, ONA’s Cabinet on Health Policy, which sets our legislative agenda, developed a limited list of priorities, anticipating that a number of these priorities would require multi-session strategies before being approved. Two of our top priorities—updating Oregon’s health care workplace violence law, and mandating reimbursement parity Oregon’s Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists—didn’t pass this session, and remain priorities for ONA. The largest reforms to our health care system this session were the creation of a Health Insurance Exchange and the establishment of Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs).
Senate Bill 99, which directs the state to develop a business plan for Oregon’s Health Insurance Exchange, and has the potential to help up to 350,000 Oregonians access quality affordable health insurance, passed the legislature with strong bipartisan support. An exchange is a marketplace for consumers and business to purchase health insurance and access Federal subsidies. ONA remains concerned that this legislation may not have the ability to negotiate with insurers on cost—as large businesses already do—and be able to offer Oregon consumers and small businesses a better deal. However, we remain committed to continuing to work with the state as they develop the business plan to ensure that the Exchange best meets the needs of Oregonians.
Transforming our health care system to encourage outcome based care by incentivizing primary and preventive care was a top priority for Governor Kitzhaber. After much debate, House Bill 3650 passed the Legislature with bipartisan support and will now move to an interim phase to establish criteria for CCOs, outcome measures for providers, integration of different silos of care and identifying the funding streams for this new system.
Despite the difficult legislative climate ONA had a number of victories for our members. Protecting collective bargaining rights and public employee retirement funds was critical, especially with similar attacks succeeding in other states. Targeted funds to help our rural Nurse Practitioners subsidize malpractice insurance and incentivize new NPs through loan forgiveness were major victories in this budget climate.
Another highlight of this legislative session was nurse engagement in the legislative process. Back in February, we started the session by bringing nearly 300 nurses and nursing students from around Oregon to the Capitol to learn about the legislative process and lobby their elected officials. Throughout the session, ONA members called and emailed legislators, testified before legislative committees, and had a voice in the legislative process.
ONA’s Government Relations team is proud to represent your interests in Salem and will continue to advocate for all ONA members.