Sen. Steiner Hayward’s bill would have employers pay for employees’ Medicaid

As the federal government struggles to agree on how to deal with rising Medicaid costs, Oregon seems to have a solution: charge employers for their employees’ Medicaid costs.

Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who works as an OHSU family physician when not at the Capitol, has introduced SB997 this legislative session, which would penalize employers that have public employees receiving coverage through the Oregon Health Plan because of low-income.

In 2016, public health care assistance in Oregon cost over $2 billion. Over 1 million Oregonians are covered by Medicaid, about a quarter of the population. Oregon Health Plan enrollment grew 72 percent under the ACA Medicaid expansion.

The bill would help offset the growing costs of the Oregon Health Plan and would raise an estimated $60 million in new revenue over the biennium.

The penalty would apply to employers with at least 50 full-time employees. Employers would have to pay approximately 90 percent of the cost of an average Silver plan per employee to the Exchange to the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

According to testimony by Jon Collins, the Director of Office of Analytics, Health Policy and Analytics Division, nearly 40 percent of adults ages 19-64 on Medicaid have some type of employment. About 29 percent of adults on Medicaid are employed at least half time.

“We don’t want to get people off the Oregon Health Plan” said Senator Steiner Hayward. “It’s very good insurance and generally better than what a lot of employers offer. We want businesses to pay their fair share.”

Each Oregon Health Plan member costs an estimated $500 a month to insure.

Oregon currently has a $1.8 billion deficit the Legislature has to address.

The bill received no written or oral opposed testimony at the Health Care committee’s public hearing on March 30. The Oregon Nurses Association, SEIU Local 503, Oregon AFL-CIO, and Oregon School Employees Association all testified in support of the bill.