5 Things Oregon: Q&A w/Rep. Salinas, Policy cutoff, Budget expectations

Thank you for allowing us to play this role in Oregon’s health care ecosystem. This is our 10th year, if you can believe it. This once-a-month newsletter, as well as the 10-year archive of over 1500 independently published stories on Oregon health care, has been free each of those 10 years because of the support of our sponsors and attendees at our annual policy conference.

That’s it. That’s everything that funds our work that we’re able to do year round. Just you coming to our conference.

It wasn’t clear a year ago, a month into COVID, that we would still be with you in April of 2021. That we are is because you continue to put wind in our sails. It’s meaningful, and we appreciate it. Thank you.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Rep. Salinas reviews priority legislation

Rep. Andrea Salinas serves as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Health Care. She is also a member of both the House Subcommittee on COVID-19 and the House Committee on Behavioral Health. In a recent Q&A with State of Reform Reporter Patrick Jones, Salinas discussed a slew of bills she is helping push forward this session including HB 2081, a bill that looks to lower the cost of care through modifications to the Health Care Cost Growth Target program, and another bill that would create a public option in the state.

Salinas also discussed HB 2362, a bill that would require approval from OHA before certain mergers, acquisitions, or affiliations among health care entities can take place. “Before these consolidations happen, we have to know how it will affect consumers,” says Salinas. “Are cost savings from these consolidations getting out to consumers? Or, is it going to be a venture capital kind of investment, where the savings go back out to investors?”

2. Leadership Series: Reviewing the legislative session

On Friday, April 23 from 10:00 – 11:00 am PST, we’re looking forward to hosting another “virtual conversation.” This event, titled “Leadership Series: Reviewing health policy in the 2021 Oregon Legislature” pulls together three of the most well connected and well informed state capital insiders. They will talk through how health policy is shaping up and some early deliberations about budget decisions that will need to be made as the session continues.

The conversation hosts Jeremiah Rigsby, Chief of Staff at CareOregon, Courtni Dresser, Associate Director of Government Relations at the Oregon Medical Association, and Tom Holt, Principal at the Holt Company. This event is free to attend, but you have to register to join us. You’ll be able to pose questions and participate in the conversation as well, just as you do in our conferences. So, we’d love to have you with us.


3. Holt discusses budget expectations

Ahead of his participation in our Leadership Series conversation next week, we caught up with Tom Holt for a review of where budget conversations currently stand in Salem. Holt says we’re at the point of session where legislators are getting into “their budget groove.” In this interview, he offers his take on the better than expected state budget outlook and his expectations for the coming months.

Holt says budget writers are currently revisiting state agency budgets due to positive revenue projections, but he says lawmakers are waiting until the revenue projection in late May before making any crucial budget decisions. Holt expects the Cover All People initiative – which would allow OHA to create a program to provide coverage for medically-underserved people, regardless of immigration status – to get most of the funding it needs. He says other initiatives, like the public option, need more concrete implementation plans and will likely be left out of the final budget.

4. Health equity bills move ahead of cutoff

With some exceptions, yesterday marked the final day for policy committees to move measures introduced in their chamber out of committee. Ahead of that, lawmakers passed a series of health equity-related bills out of committee including HB 3159, which would require providers and insurers to collect patient data on race, ethnicity, gender identity, disability status, and sexual orientation.

Lawmakers unanimously passed a bill out of committee on Monday that would dedicate funding to BIPOC communities to ensure access to mental health care. The bill would also require the Mental Health Regulatory Agency to establish a program to improve the BIPOC mental health workforce through pipeline development and scholarships, and directs the agency to provide up to $15,000 in student loan forgiveness for mental health professionals working in areas with provider shortages.


5. Oregon leaders highlight road ahead for federal health reform

Last week I had the chance to speak with US Sen. Ron Wyden, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, about the committee’s policy agenda and his thoughts on the road through a closely divided Congress. Wyden says policies that contain costs and create more accountability and competition in the health care system are areas where bipartisan support is possible.

During the 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference we also saw a glimpse of the subtle tension that exists within the House Democratic Caucus during our Congressional Democrats panel with US Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3rd CD) and Kim Schrier (WA-8th CD). Blumenauer says now is the time for Democrats to think bigger and make substantial changes to health care without getting “paralyzed” by complexity. Schrier offered a more moderate take and stressed her constituents’ weariness to large scale changes to their health care. The full conversation is available here.