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Government Relations: 2013 Legislative Agenda

The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) is Oregon’s oldest and largest professional association and labor union for Registered Nurses, and ONA is proud to represent over 12,000 Oregon nurses. From school-based health centers, to emergency rooms, to public health departments to Nurse Practitioner-run clinics, ONA members are on the front lines of our health care system. ONA works to support policies that ensure the best working conditions for nurses, and the very best health care for the patients they serve.

Top Priorities for Our Members

The Oregon Nurses Association’s Cabinet on Health Policy has identified the following as ONA’s legislative priorities for the 2013 session:

  • Health Care Reform: As the largest segment of Oregon’s health care workforce, nurses are invested in health care reform, and committed to ensuring that both Oregon’s Health Systems Transformation and Health Insurance Exchange improve access and quality of care, and include nurses and nurse practitioners as providers. Status: Ongoing.
  • Safe Nurse Staffing: Oregon took a unique approach to address safe nurse staffing in 2001 by establishing nurse staffing committees in Oregon hospitals and empowering nurses to help set staffing levels in their facilities. Safe nurse staffing not only ensures the safety of nurses and patients, but is a top predictor of job satisfaction and retention for nurses. Oregon’s nurse staffing law hasn’t been modified since 2005. ONA has begun the process of reviewing the law and is working to develop recommendations to strengthen the law to better protect nurses and patients.
  • Improving Access to Primary Care and Mental Health Services (HB 2902): Cuts by private insurers to reimbursement for Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants in Primary Care and Mental Health run counter to the goals of health care reform, including increasing access to primary and preventive care. Payment Parity for Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants in primary care and mental health will increase access to care, treat these providers fairly, and is supported by research and recommendations from many sources. HB 2902 requires private insurers to reimburse NPs, PAs, and MDs in primary care and mental health care at the same rates. The bill also establishes a task force to further study the issue and sunsets the law in 2018. Status: HB 2902 was signed into law.
  • Retirement Security: ONA nurses in public service at OHSU and in county health departments throughout the state participate in the Public Employees Retirement System, which remains one of the most stable and best funded public pension systems in the country. ONA will work to ensure that any changes to PERS are fair to workers, constitutional, and result in savings to the system. Additionally, ONA supports creation of the Oregon Retirement Savings Task Force. (HB 3436). Status: SB 822, which changed the COLA for PERS retirees, was signed into law. It will be challenged in court. HB 3436 was signed into law.
  • Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funding invested in tobacco prevention, cessation, and health care services: ONA supports allocating TMSA funds for their original intent—tobacco prevention, cessation, and health related costs of tobacco use. Oregon has yet to invest any of the TMSA funding in these important services. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in Oregon, and targeted investments in prevention, cessation, physical education and school based health centers will help keep kids healthy and off tobacco, will improve public health and will decrease costs to the health care system. Status: For the first time ever, the legislature invested TMSA funds in tobacco prevention ($4 million), school physical education programs ($4 million) and Oregon’s health systems transformation ($112 million).

Additional Priorities for ONA Nurses

  • Rural and Primary Care Health Care Workforce Incentives (HB 3367 and SB 440): Nurse Practitioners are a critical part of Oregon’s health care workforce. They provide many of the same services physicians provide, and have at least equal outcomes to physician care. Nurse Practitioners are eligible for a number of state incentives that are designed to retain primary care providers in rural Oregon. Indeed, in many areas of the state NPs are the only primary care providers. These incentives include the Primary Care Loan Repayment program (SB 440) and the Rural Provider Tax Credit (HB 3367). Status: SB 440 was signed into law. The Rural Provider Tax Credit was renewed for two years with conditions.
  • Workers Compensation Timelines (SB 533): Currently Oregon Nurse Practitioners have 90 days to treat injured workers. While many workplace injuries are resolved in this time, some require a longer treatment period. Extending the time a nurse practitioner can treat an injured worker would improve access and continuity of care for injured workers. Status: SB 533 was signed into law.
  • Removing Dispensing Restrictions for Nurse Practitioners (SB 8): Removing outdated restrictions on Nurse Practitioner dispensing will allow Nurse Practitioners to help their patients fill prescriptions in a timely manner and without unnecessary hassle. Status: SB 8 was signed into law.
  • Earned Sick Days (HB 3390): Almost half of private sector workers, and over 80% of low-wage workers don’t have paid sick days. Workers without paid time off are 1.5 times more likely to go to work with a contagious illness. They are also more likely to send their kids to school sick because they can’t afford to take time off to keep their kids home. Oregon nurses see what happens when patients don’t have access to paid sick time: they get sicker, and are more likely to spread disease. A paid sick days policy would prevent workers from having to make an impossible choice between lost wages—and fear of discipline—and working sick. Status: The legislature has asked an informal work group to further study this issue and present recommendations to the legislature next year.
  • Funding for Nursing Programs: Nursing programs at OHSU and in Oregon’s Community Colleges prepare students to enter Oregon’s nursing workforce. Funding for these programs is essential to meet the workforce needs of our future, especially as health reforms that focus on primary and preventive care and expanded access to care are implemented. 

You can view/download a PDF of the 2013 ONA Legislative agenda by clicking here

To reach ONA’s Legislative team contact:

Sarah Baessler at baessler@oregonrn.org or call (503) 351-5965
Jack Dempsey at jack@dempseypublicaffairs.com or call (503) 358-2864
Jenn Baker at baker@oregonrn.org or call (503) 621-8729
Kevin Mealy at mealy@oregonrn.org or call (503) 293-0011

 

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Oregon Nurses Association
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