Four leaders in the Oregon State Legislature came together to discuss the outlook for health care and health policy at the 2021 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference held earlier this week. This “four corner conversation” brought together health policy leaders from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum and from both chambers in the legislature.
From the Democrats’ side of the aisle, the afternoon keynote conversation featured Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Kate Lieber and Rep. Rachel Prusak, chair of the House Interim Committee on Health Care. Offering their Republican perspectives were Sen. Dick Anderson, vice chair of the Senate Interim Committee on Human Services, Mental Health and Recovery, and Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, vice chair of the House Interim Committee on Behavioral Health.
The four policymakers offered insight on the issues they’ve been focused on in the interim, the future of the state safety net, efforts to lower health care costs, and a preview of the issues they will prioritize in the upcoming legislative session.
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Finding ways to support the health care workforce was a priority for all four panelists.
“The immediacy of our workforce crisis is, quite frankly, something that I’m not sure I anticipated and I’m not sure a lot of people anticipated. Just the ferocity of the nature of it right now,” said Sen. Lieber.
Rep. Prusak highlighted the needs of Oregon’s health care workforce, noting that she’s looking at debt relief strategies, outreach strategies, and access to training programs as ways to support the education pipeline. She also commented on the importance of improving the workplace culture.
“I think we need to start with changing the current work culture from a stressed, compressed environment to one that is team-based, supportive, and resilient.”
Sen. Anderson, who represents District 5 – Lincoln City, says he keeps the rural and coastal communities in mind when he thinks about the workforce challenges facing the state. He says these communities need better access to services and they need to find ways to bring providers to them. He specifically pointed to low reimbursement rates as a barrier to access.
Rep. Moore-Green says she’s particularly focused on addressing health issues upstream to avoid high costs and poor health outcomes down the road.
“I think that should be one of our top priorities. If we want to bring the cost of health care down, we need to invest in prevention, maintenance, and education.”
Looking toward the future, Prusak said her committee will continue to frame policy conversations around equity, access, cost, and public health. Prusak said bills were prioritized in the 2021 session based on this framework. She pointed to HB 3352, the Cover All People bill, HB 2508, which expanded coverage and reimbursement of telehealth, and HB 3159, which required plans and providers to collect more patient data, as the types of policies that exemplify these priorities and move the health care system toward universal access and affordable, culturally-appropriate care.
“These three bills, I think, help with that transformation. And if we continue to prioritize equity, access, cost, and public health, and all come together and have these conversations, we will continue with that transformation.”
The full keynote conversation is available above.