5 Things Oregon: Q&A w/Rep. Drazan, Health bills on the agenda, COVID & behavioral health

We are looking for your feedback on how folks’ comfort level is changing vis-a-vis returning to in-person conferences. We are beginning to think through our 2021 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference planned for late October. So, I’d love to get your sense of how things stand today regarding going back to in person events, and where you think your comfort level will be come October.

So, if you could take a minute to offer your input here, I would appreciate it. We will share the feedback we receive with folks later this summer.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   With help from Emily Boerger

1. Rep. Drazan on ensuring Republicans’ voices are heard

Last month, lawmakers in the House reached an agreement to end Republicans’ delay tactics which were slowing the movement of bills. State of Reform Reporter Patrick Jones recently caught up with House Minority Leader Rep. Christine Drazan to discuss the politics of this year’s legislative session and how her caucus plans to ensure Republican perspectives are incorporated into the legislative process.

Drazan says she is disappointed that “big overhaul” health bills have moved forward this year without getting to a point of consensus, but remains positive that, particularly in the health care committees, there is an openness to bipartisanship. “We can achieve balance in our legislation, even if we don’t have balance politically, when we create the leverage to force that conversation. And it’s not always pretty, and those who might wield the power don’t want to pull up a seat at the table, but it really is the right thing to do. When we get there, the results are always better.”

2. Health bills teed up this week

This week, the House Committee on Health Care had 12 bills scheduled for work sessions or public hearings including this bill that would prohibit grandfathered (meaning built on a pre-ACA framework) health plans from imposing pre-existing condition exclusions. The committee also held a work session on SJR 12, which proposes an amendment to the state constitution requiring the state “to ensure residents have access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate, and affordable health care.” The joint resolution passed out of committee on a 6-4 vote.

The Senate Committee on Health Care met this week to discuss 9 bills including legislation that would limit out-of-pocket costs of insulin, prohibit online vape sales, and require transparency related to CCO prior authorization information. With about a month and a half left to go this session, we also recently caught up with three Oregon health policy insiders for their takes on the shape of the health policy conversation this session. They offer an update on the major bills moving forward this session and the health policy themes that have emerged.


3. “Catastrophic impacts” of COVID on behavioral health

Heather Jefferis is the Executive Director of the Oregon Council for Behavioral Health (OCBH), which focuses on advocating for legislation and programs that support mental health and SUD treatment/services. In this Q&A, Jefferis talks about the impact of COVID-19 on Oregon’s behavioral health sector, OCBH’s future legislative agenda, and the progress of Measure 110.

Jefferis says COVID has had “pretty catastrophic impacts on the sector” and has exacerbated the BH challenges that already existed prior to the pandemic. However, she says she’s excited about the work being done in the legislature this year related to the behavioral health workforce. “This includes scholarships, tuition reimbursement, paid internships and supporting paying for supervisors…We are also excited about some interesting strategies on recruiting diverse employees into the behavioral health sector.”


4. Uncertainty in the 2021 federal health agenda

President Biden’s health policy agenda got off to a quick start but may slow in the coming months. In his latest piece, State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta outlines the high-profile health reforms that Democrats are discussing for possible inclusion in the infrastructure or family support bills that Biden has teed up.

Among the list of reforms up for discussion are efforts to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60, include dental and vision coverage under Medicare, to give HHS the authority to negotiate pricing for Medicare-covered drugs directly with the pharmaceutical industry, and create a public option. Capretta highlights the outlook, challenges, and opposition for each of these proposals.

5. 21% of health care workers display symptoms of PTSD

A report from the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) finds nurses are facing increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression compared to pre-pandemic times. A large meta-analysis finds that about 21% of health care workers have exhibited at least moderate symptoms of PTSD – a rate 5 times higher than the estimated prevalence in the general population.

The report finds that interventions that focus on organizational factors, such as ensuring availability of PPE and work scheduling to enable adequate rest, may be more effective than interventions focused on treating individual symptoms. OCN recommends that a “systematic needs assessment” be conducted among nurses in Oregon to determine the best strategies to address the mental health impacts of the pandemic.