OR: OAHHS celebrates 2015 legislative accomplishments

The 2015 Legislative Session was one of the most proactive and productive in recent memory for hospitals and health care, as well as the patients hospitals serve, announced the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) today. From partnering for the fifth consecutive biennium to fund a significant portion of the state’s Medicaid program, to passing landmark price transparency legislation and collaborating to update Oregon’s nurse staffing law, hospitals’ priorities were front and center in the legislature.

Hospitals also announced several voluntary initiatives while the legislature was in session–all designed to help Oregon patients and their communities. One of those initiatives was the announcement that Oregon hospitals will maintain their community benefit spending levels even as charity care, a significant portion of that total, drops in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. Hospitals across the state also agreed to offer free care to those earning up to 200% of the federal poverty level.

In keeping with their commitment to quality and transparency, hospitals also launched a new website, OregonHospitalGuide.org, which currently displays the quality ratings for every hospital in the state. This user-friendly platform will incorporate further data on hospitals in future months, giving patients an ability to compare all Oregon hospitals.

“The first six months of 2015 have seen some of the most proactive initiatives by Oregon hospitals in a decade,” said Andy Davidson, President and CEO of OAHHS. “Hospitals have proven their deep commitment to their communities, their patients, and the state in many ways. Our hospitals and health systems are working hand-in-hand with state and local leaders to continuously improve the health of Oregonians, and to ensure that patients can understand both the price and quality of the care they receive. Oregon is leapfrogging ahead of many states with these initiatives, and we are proud to say we are leading the way for the rest of the country.”

Below are details on each of the various areas on which Oregon hospitals found partnership and success during the legislative session.


 

Medicaid Funding (HB 2395, signed by Gov. Brown on March 23; and HB 5526, passed July 2):

Oregon hospitals again agreed to partner with the state on a hospital tax program which, when leveraged with federal funding, will pay for a significant portion of the state’s Medicaid program. The four-year agreement is estimated to generate more than $1.2 billion, which will pay for Medicaid services of all types for low income Oregonians.

Price Transparency (SB 900, passed July 6, 2015):

Oregon hospitals and many other stakeholder partners rallied to pass a bipartisan price transparency bill, SB 900, which directs the state to create a user-friendly website that displays average prices for the most common inpatient and outpatient hospital procedures, as paid by commercial insurers, giving Oregonians a better sense of the cost of care.

The price transparency bill is an integral piece of a three-pronged approach put forward by OAHHS, which would allow Oregonians to understand health care prices in advance of receiving care. Beyond the passage of the bill, OAHHS is working with members of the Oregon Health Leadership Council to build a plan that would provide insured Oregonians with cost estimates directly from their insurer, and pledging to provide good-faith estimates to uninsured and out-of-network patients in advance of care.

Nurse Staffing (SB 469, passed June 25):

Oregon hospitals worked with a variety of stakeholders to pass a SB 469, which outlined updates to Oregon’s nurse staffing law. The legislation focused on ensuring patient safety and enhanced the audit and complaint investigation process by the Oregon Health Authority so that both nurses and hospitals could address deficiencies in a timely manner.

Quality Transparency:

In May, Oregon hospitals launched Oregon Hospital Guide (www.OregonHospitalGuide.org), a new website that displays hospital data on a user-friendly platform. This website is the first phase of a larger hospital transparency effort.

OregonHospitalGuide.org is the new home of data that tracks the quality of care in Oregon’s hospitals–which patients can use to learn about their local community hospital. The site is designed to make complex information understandable and accessible to all Oregonians.

Community Benefit:

Earlier this year, Oregon hospitals announced a new, two-part community benefit policy package. The first initiative will provide free care for families who are not Medicaid eligible and whose income is below 200% of the federal poverty level. This program will help ensure that even as Medicaid expands, those who do not qualify and are unable to attain insurance will receive the hospital care they need. It is estimated that 87,000 Oregonians fall into this category.

The second initiative involves hospitals keeping overall community benefit spending at or above levels from prior years. During a time when charity care – free care for patients who do not have the ability to pay – is dropping statewide as a result of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals have committed to maintain their 2015 community benefit spending based on an average of prior years, as reported to the Oregon Health Authority. This commitment will allow hospitals to reinvest those dollars in other community benefit activities which support local health needs, in addition to fulfilling their charitable obligations to their communities as tax-exempt organizations.

Economic Impact:

Oregon community hospitals accounted for $18.9 billion in economic output in Oregon in 2013, according to a study by ECONorthwest released by OAHHS in June.

Executive Summary: http://www.oahhs.org/sites/default/files/2015-Economic-Impact-Executive-Summary.pdf
Full Report: http://www.oahhs.org/sites/default/files/2015-OAHHS-Final-Economic-Report.pdf

Nearly 60,000 Oregonians are directly employed by Oregon’s community hospitals and another 52,000 jobs are directly associated with hospitals, showing that community hospitals are one of Oregon’s key economic engines. Those 112,000 hospital-related jobs account for 4.9 percent of the state’s total employment. On a county-by-county basis, hospital jobs and associated employment generally range between 3 and 6 percent of job totals–often trailing only government-supported jobs.

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