Two health bills that could dramatically impact health outcomes were discussed during a Feb. 2 meeting of the Oregon House Committee on Health Care.
The first of the health bills , HB 4052, would require the Oregon Health Authority to provide grants to operate two culturally and linguistically-specific mobile health units, as pilot programs, to serve priority populations with histories of poor health or social outcomes.
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During the public hearing, Rep. Andrea Salinas said the bill came up in legislative days during January, and has been reintroduced from the 2021 session.
“This pandemic pulled back the curtain on health inequities in Oregon that already existed and, now I posit, that we are compelled to act,” Salinas said.
At the core of the bill is an interest in meeting BIPOC and Tribal communities where they are to reduce and eliminate health disparities. The bill was supported by Jessica Nischik-Long, executive director of the Oregon Public Health Association. They support the proposed community-developed strategies to address racism, a driving factor of disparities.
Nischik-Long said the bill creates an opportunity for the state to move beyond simply identifying disparities in data, and consider that these disparities are actually impacting real people.
The bill was also supported by Annie Valtierra-Sanchez, director of Southern Oregon Health Equity Coalition. They said as doctors don’t make home visits anymore, and many communities of color are mistrustful of health care settings, this culturally-appropriate pilot shows promise.
“We’re starting with a pilot program and really tending to what is the most key things we can do,” Valtierra-Sanchez said.
Valtierra-Sanchez said one-time investments will not be enough to move the needle, and addressing health disparities will require systems to be developed and to be sustainable into the future.
The bill was also supported by the Oregon Primary Care Association, Our Children Oregon, and Health Care For All Oregon.
Another bill discussed at the meeting was HB 4083, which requires individual and group health insurance policies, health care service contractors, multiple employer welfare arrangements and state medical assistance programs to provide reimbursement for at least three primary care or behavioral health visits annually, in addition to one preventative primary care visit, without cost sharing.
Rep. Rachel Prusak, the committee chair, said the bill would cover three visits in any combination of primary care or behavioral health. However, she said she would like to see three visits for primary care in addition to three for behavioral health covered, which is not currently a level of coverage proposed in the bill.
This bill was also supported by the Oregon Primary Care Association, OSPIRG, and Providence in Oregon.