Oregon health official outlines expectations for universal health care during Senate interim committee meeting

Dr. Bruce Goldberg, chair of the Task Force on Universal Health Care and a professor at the Portland State University School of Public Health, outlined priorities for the Task Force during an Oregon Senate Interim Committee meeting on Nov. 16. 

 

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The Task Force, which was created after the passage of Senate Bill 770 in 2019, was given an extra year to formulate a plan thanks to the passage of SB 428 this past year. According to the Oregon Health Authority, the Task Force will submit their final recommendation for the Health Care for All Oregon Plan no later than Sep. 2022. 

The strategy Dr. Goldberg presented to the committee is to have a system with lower premiums and cost-sharing measures for low-and-middle-income recipients. 

He also mentioned that any out-of-state residents who work for Oregon-based employers and their dependents will be eligible for the plan. 

Benefits under the Task Force’s plan, according to Goldberg, will be comparable to the Oregon Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB) benefits package, which will cover primary and preventive care, behavioral health, and oral health. 

Goldberg pointed to the importance of public input during the Task Force planning process, even if it meant hearing from people who may not agree with the proposed plan.

“We really want to solicit broad public input. We don’t want to just reach out to those who are supportive of a universal health care plan, but to really engage broadly with those who may be concerned with some of the details behind the plan.”

He said the Task Force will seek public engagement from rural and underserved communities, as well as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

The Task Force also plans to garner public engagement from a range of businesses based on industry and employee size. He added labor unions to this list. 

One challenge he mentioned concerned the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established retirement and health plans in private industries. 

“One of the issues that we’re going to have to deal with for employers is ERISA, and the ability to have those payments come into a state-wide universal health care plan.”