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Lawmakers send Medicaid funding package to governor


SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Oregon lawmakers have sent a $465 million health care package to the governor’s desk to address funding shortfalls in the state’s Medicaid program.

The state’s Senate approved the plan on Thursday, a week after it passed the House. The measure secures six years of funding for Oregon’s Medicaid program through a tax on hospitals and health insurance premiums.

The move comes as the state faces a Medicaid funding gap that’s snowballed to more than $800 million. Gov. Kate Brown is looking to pay down the rest of that funding shortfall through a tax increase on tobacco and e-cigarettes. She also wants to tax employers who have a high proportion of employees on Medicaid.

Over a million people are covered by the state’s Medicaid program.

News release from Oregon Senate Democrats:

Senate takes steps to cover portion of Medicaid budget gap HB 2010 is a key portion of funding Oregon’s health care expansion SALEM – The Oregon State Senate took steps to fund a portion of Oregon’s Medicaid expansion and protect health care coverage for thousands of Oregon families.

House Bill 2010 – which passed on the Senate floor today – extends the assessment on health care providers, which is used to cover the state’s share of the Medicaid program and allows the state to obtain significant federal matching funds. Oregon is one of 49 states using this type of funding mechanism. The legislation was negotiated as part of a larger budget package for the Oregon Health Plan throughout the interim.

“This is a big step forward in our ability to continue ensuring that health care remains within reach for all Oregonians,” said Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, who serves as a co-chair of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. “This only gets us part of the way there, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle. It also takes measures to keep rates low for employers and other Oregonians who buy their insurance in the private market.”

The bill provides support for insurance carriers to protect against catastrophic claims, which allows insurers to pass along savings to their consumers. This benefits small businesses purchasing employee benefits and those who purchase insurance individually.

Currently, the Oregon Health Plan – which administers the state’s Medicaid program – provides health care coverage to nearly 400,000 children. It also provides coverage for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as adults earning at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,700 per year). In total, about 1 million Oregonians are covered by the program.

“The entire package helps stabilize health insurance rates for everyone by providing Oregonians with lower-cost preventive care, rather than forcing people to get their health care in the emergency room where the costs are paid by the insurance premiums of every Oregonian,” said Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. “It also provides a safeguard for insurers when catastrophic claims hit, so that they are protected from the extraordinary. This lowers insurance rates to the consumer.”

House Bill 2010 now goes to the Governor for her signature.

News release from the Oregon Association of Hospitals:

Hospitals Applaud Passage of Medicaid Funding Bill

Lake Oswego, Ore. – February 28, 2019 – The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems applauds the bipartisan passage of HB 2010 in the Oregon Legislature today. The bill passed the Senate after the House approved it last week. HB 2010 funds a large portion of the state’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan, for the next six years. The funding comes through various health care taxes, which include the continuation of the hospital provider tax and a health insurance premium tax. These elements were overwhelmingly supported by Oregonians in January 2018 with the passage of Measure 101. Hospitals continue to support this approach as a foundation to fully fund the Medicaid program.

“Oregon’s hospitals applaud the passage of HB 2010 today,” said Andy Van Pelt, executive vice president of OAHHS. “Hospitals have been supporters of the Medicaid budget for 15 years. In this biennium, via the hospital provider tax, hospitals are on track to contribute nearly 28 percent of the state funds required to fully fund the Oregon Health Plan. Given that nearly one in four Oregonians relies on Medicaid for health care coverage, hospitals feel it is deeply important that our state continues its commitment to these vulnerable families and individuals.

“The funding package passed today represents a carefully negotiated set of agreements brought forward by the Governor and further refined with a core set of stakeholders over many months prior to session. Hospitals were part of that work and feel deeply invested in ensuring that this complete package passes through the Legislature. Other components of the package will come before the Legislature in coming months and hospitals will continue to advocate for their passage to fully and sustainably fund the Medicaid program in Oregon.”

The bill now goes to Governor Brown, who is expected to sign it.

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