As the result of an Annual Sessions ballot measure that Oregon voters passed in November 2010, the Oregon Legislature will convene in February for a 35 day session. Much of this "short” session will be spent focusing on the budget, and legislators will be faced with tough decisions as they have to cut nearly $500 million in state services in order to balance the budget.
While the focus will be on the budget, committees will meet and will consider a limited range of policy bills. A lot of the work of the policy committees will be taking next steps on some of the major health care and education legislation that was enacted by the 2011 legislature. ONA will be involved in the ongoing conversation and debate around the future of health care and the health care workforce in Oregon and we also anticipate introducing legislation around Payment Parity for Nurse Practitioners and Influenza Vaccines for Health Care Workers.
Health Systems Transformation
In addition to the necessary budgetary adjustments, the legislature will be asked to approve a work plan handed down the Oregon Health Policy Board. As per the legislature’s request, the Oregon Health Policy Board has spent the interim working alongside members representing every aspect of the health care community, including nurses, to build the framework and configuration of the Coordinated Care Organizations. The CCOs will be charged with operating off of a global budget and coordinating physical, mental, dental and additional services for a given population, starting with Medicaid recipients. The focus of each CCO will be primary and preventive care, rather than acute care, aimed at driving the cost of health care in the state of Oregon down.
If the legislature approves the plan presented by the Health Policy Board, the first CCOs are scheduled to be up and running as early as July of 2012.
ONA is currently participating and closely monitoring the work of the Health Policy Board and each of the workgroups advising the board to ensure that nurses have a voice in the transformation process.
Payment Parity for Nurse Practitioners
Given the importance of primary and preventive care, ONA and NPO are going to continue our work to ensure that NPs across the state can stay in business and continue to serve their communities. In recent years, insurers have begun to cut reimbursement rates for Nurse Practitioners. We have been working to establish a grassroots effort, working with NPs, insurers and policy makers to ensure that NPs are reimbursed at the same rate as their physician colleagues when billing under the same code.
Vaccination for Seasonal Flu
ONA recently released an official position on the issue that we believe protects the best interest of all of our members and the communities they serve.
Understanding the importance of getting vaccinated, ONA is working to encourage that each facility make vaccination education and vaccinations readily available to every healthcare worker. Any education program should include the benefits and risks associated with vaccination and should also cover additional prevention methods.
ONA is strongly opposed to any policy that makes an influenza vaccination a condition of employment or imposes punitive or discriminatory measures against any individual who has opted to not get vaccinated. Vaccination status of nurses and other health care professionals should be protected health information, as it is for the patients. Any requirement to identify your vaccination status violates the confidential nature of your health records.