Oregon State Senate Committee holds public hearings for bills that expand health equity

The Oregon State Senate Committee on Health Care held public hearings for several bills to make Oregon health care more equitable. These bills will fill in gaps of health care coverage for Oregonians from underserved populations. The bills are SB 557, SB 567, SB 641 and SB 706. All bills have a work session scheduled for March 17. 



Senate Bill 557 and Senate Bill 706 both involve engaging those from the Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations who reside in Oregon. The COFA nations include the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia and are freely associated with the United States. They can live, work and have access to public services in the U.S. However, according to COFA leaders, some COFA citizens lack equitable access to some government provided services. 

Senate Bill 557 would mend the dental coverage gap for low-income elder COFA citizens by establishing the COFA Dental Program in the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Many COFA citizens have dental coverage through Medicaid. However, there is a small population of older adults unable to receive Medicare and do not have coverage, according to Sen. Lee Beyer. 

Senate Bill 706 would establish an outreach and marketing program for COFA citizens so they can enroll in Medicaid. This bill would support outreach for COFA citizens due to the challenge of language barriers and distrust in the health system. David Anitok, co-founder of the COFA Alliance National Network said:

“We believe it’s important for all of us Oregonians and the residents of Oregon to address health equity for our communities.”

Senate Bill 567 prohibits unlawful denial of medical treatment based on a protected class. According to Jake Cornett, executive director and CEO of Disability Rights Oregon, the prohibition of discrimination under Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 659A applies to all public accommodations — and that includes community health systems.

Chapter 659A applies to health care providers. Yet, it seems that some in the health care industry are unaware of their non-discrimination obligations under Oregon law. If anything, this underscores the urgency of enacting this bill.”

Senate Bill 641 prohibits the denial of medical coverage and assistance to children awaiting adjudication in detention.

According to Sen. Bill Hansell, children on public insurance programs, like the Oregon Health Plan, lose their coverage when awaiting adjudication, and the counties are financially responsible for their medical needs. The bill would remove that gap and continue state health coverage through this gap period. Molly Rogers, representing the Oregon Juvenile Department Directors Association, said:

“In 2019, approximately 2,700 youth were placed in detention prior to adjudication. This population of youth isn’t typically placed in detention with any prior planning. So they do not arrive with any medication or, often, any understanding of their health care plan. In juvenile justice, we know that the continuity of care is one of the key ways to keep youth in treatment, and with the current system, providers can only receive compensation from youth in detention if a county or a family is willing to pay the out-of-pocket cost to cover the services.”