Video: Oregon health policy experts break down the legislative session

Three health policy insiders convened with State of Reform on Friday to discuss key policy advancements made in the current Oregon legislative session as it passes its halfway point. In a discussion entitled, “Leadership Series: Reviewing health policy in the 2021 Oregon Legislature,” panelists discussed the wide array of bills being worked on, the increasing amount of equity legislation and the continued collaboration between all silos of the health care sector. 


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The panelists included Jeremiah Rigsby, chief of staff at CareOregon, Courtni Dresser, director of government relations at the Oregon Medical Association (OMA) and Tom Holt, Oregon lobbyist and managing partner of the Holt Company. 

Holt emphasized the irregularity of this session by comparing its remote nature to any normal session:

“I think what is striking is even through the remote session and all the disruption, as well as lack of pre-session work, there is still a lot of big policy moving through this session.”

Panelists highlighted the push of health equity bills as being important and much-needed changes in health care. The data collection required by these bills, according to Rigsby, is the first step to understanding these disparities and learning how to better serve those disparaged communities. 

“We don’t know the race and ethnicity of about 40% of our population right now. So it’s one thing to talk about equity and talk about addressing disparities, and it’s another thing to actually put things together to do that work.”

Another key aspect of this session is the push to cover the gap of uninsured Oregonians. Holt notes that building up an entire system from scratch would have trouble getting through. He suggested that lawmakers build upon what Oregon already has and subsidize coverage and quality care. 

“I think we are kind of hung up on the bumper sticker of a public option, and the real issue is affordability of appropriate coverage.”

Panelists also discussed House Bill 2362, concerning mergers and acquisitions. According to Dresser, providers and hospitals want to stay independent, but low revenue streams make it challenging to remain independent. Dresser and OMA want to ensure that patients of a potential low-revenue provider or hospital still have a place to get quality care. 

“Some of the goals of the bill are pieces that OMA agrees with, but the process of how we get there and get to the right bill is always important. The devil is in the details.”

All the panelists agreed that Oregon’s health care silos are working together to provide better care at lower costs for their citizens and that the relationships formed in the health care sphere go a long way to enacting meaningful policy. Rigsby said:

“Regardless of what happens politically, Oregon is special because we have already been working together to advance health care reform. We need to harness that energy moving forward.”

To see the full video here on State of Reform’s Youtube page.