Healthcare is finally here

New health care bill hasthings looking up

Governor Kitzhaber recently signed a bill into law that should improve state-wide healthcare and make it more affordable for everyone.

New health care bill has things looking up

Governor Kitzhaber recently signed a bill into law that should improve state-wide healthcare and make it more affordable for everyone.

Let the trumpets ring! This bill has been passed in a time where quality healthcare at an affordable price is an absolute necessity.

Kitzhaber has expressed that he believes his new healthcare bill could aid in fixing the federal budget as well. The Obama administration has been keeping an eye on Oregon’s healthcare happenings for some time, and now they just might find what they have been looking for.

This new reform is largely due to the two new bills Kitzhaber signed: Senate Bill 1580 and House Bill 4164. Respectively, these bills approve Oregon Health Authority proposals for coordinated care organizations (CCOs) and require Oregon Health Insurance Corporation to establish and deposit money into federally insured accounts.

SB 1580 allows officials to assign caseworkers to medicaid patients to manage the treatments for a client’s health, including medical, dental and mental care. Kitzhaber hopes to eliminate redundant tests and procedures as well as reduce expensive hospital stays. SB 1580 would work through CCOs, which would serve mainly Oregon Health Plan clients.

The state will allow each CCO to figure out the best way to spend a fixed amount of Medicaid funds. By doing this, the state holds the individual CCOs accountable, should they use up their allotted budget, to meet quality standards. Oregon is asking that the first new wave of CCOs have their applications in by this spring in order to be running by August of this year.

Currently, CCOs are able to care for roughly 600,000 members of the Oregon Health Plan. Later this year, however, the state plans to ask CCOs to provide care for about 300,000 school and state employees as well. Since the number of CCOs should increase as per the new healthcare bill, these high numbers should not be much of an issue.

HB 4164 creates a health insurance exchange for individuals and small businesses. The insurance exchange would be online, in an attempt to make things more convenient for people and employers to find the most affordable and suitable insurance plans.

In more detail, HB 4164 will allow qualified individuals and small businesses to tap into federal subsidies and tax breaks with standardized benefit packages, thus ensuring consumers know what they’re getting. Currently, around 173,000 Oregonians who purchase their own insurance will be able to join the exchange program. Also included are small businesses with up to 50 employees who choose the use the exchange program.

The new healthcare bill also focuses on rewarding doctors for healthy patients, starting with the 600,000 low-income patients currently on Oregon’s Medicaid plan. Doctors will now have an incentive to keep their patients as healthy as possible, which will most likely result in more quality healthcare for everyone, not just the upper-echelon.

While everyone is included in the new bill, its first and foremost focus are patients with chronic diseases, mental illnesses and addictions who account for the largest portion of current healthcare spending.

“By focusing on prevention and wellness, by focusing on community-based management of chronic conditions, by better coordinating care, we can create a healthcare system that actually produces health, that can improve the health of our population, and can save us millions, if not billions, of dollars,” Kitzhaber said.

The bill has people hoping to see physicians make new efforts to keep in touch with their patients, thus ensuring that prescriptions are being taken and appointments are made. By doing this, costly emergency room visits would be cut, putting more money in taxpayers’ pockets.

Proponents of the bill say that if all 50 states were to adopt this approach, the federal budget would save more than $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

However, opponents of the bill have stated that insurance exchange won’t save the state any money in the long run except through subsidies and tax breaks.

According to Barak Richman, a Duke University health-law expert, reduced competition and fixed budgets improve neither quality nor efficiency. “The state is moving contrary to overwhelming statistical evidence in assuming that coordination, rather than competition, will generate desirable outcomes for patients, consumers and taxpayers,” Richman said.

But aren’t the physician incentives being created to enhance competition, making doctors strive to give the very best care to their patients?

Despite the critics, Kitzhaber’s healthcare-reform bill has been signed and parts of it will go into effect as early as this summer. Even if there are some kinks to be worked out, healthcare reform has finally come to Oregon, the state with some of the highest unemployment and lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the country.

Kitzhaber has accomplished one of the many things he set out to do in his third term as governor, and he deserves support—as does this bill. Go out and get healthy!