63 Attend Health Care Action Day, PLUS Legislative Session Wrap Up
By Eric Carlson, Lake Oswego UMC, Bob Brown Havurah Shalom, edited by Laura Belson MACG.
On Monday, April 18, 140 people from around Oregon piled into cars and buses and came together in Salem to advocate at the state capitol for reform of our health care "system". The day was organized by the SAFE coalition for health care reform, of which MACG is a member.
63 of those advocates came from MACG member institutions.
- If you were one of them, give yourself a pat on the back. MACG and its Health Care Action Team offer continuing thanks for your presence that day.
- If you weren't able to be there, when you meet someone who was, give them a pat on the back, or a hug, or thumbs up, whatever suits your style. Those advocates were there for you as well as themselves, and it's not easy work.
Most of us didn't know much about specific bills, so we concentrated on telling our own stories, or those of family and friends, and on explaining our ultimate goals for Oregon's health care system. We also asked legislators a lot of questions about their goals for the system.
We didn't ignore legislation, however. We advocated for:
- HB 99, which would establish a regulated health insurance market (or exchange) for individuals and small businesses;
- HB 3650 - Transforming the delivery of services to Medicare and Medicaid clients so that health care would be both better and less expensive.
- HB 97, which would have required health occupation licensing boards to figure out how to educate health care personnel about the varying cultures of Oregonians and how to be culturally aware health care providers;
- Maintenance of current funding for Medicaid;
In the end, we visited with over fifteen senators or senate staff members, and over thirty representatives or house staff members.
The legislative season is now over. Here’s what happened:
- HB 99 passed, with only a couple of objectionable items still included. For example, two members of the health insurance exchange board may be from the health care industry, despite the conflict of interest for consumer protection. In the coming months, it will be up to the advocacy community to suggest that the Governor appoint exchange board members friendly to consumers.
- HB 3650 passed, allowing for the creation of Community Care organizations to streamline services for Medicaid and medicare patients. Once again, it will be up to the advocacy community to monitor these organizations and ensure that their governance will be responsive to community needs and not driven by the providers.
- HB 97 did not make it out of committee, despite being popular and believed to pass if it had made it to the house floor. Due to its popularity, it will probably be introduced again in the next session.
And again, thanks to everyone who contacted the legislature in support of health care reform. It made a difference!
The Health Care Action Team meets on a monthly basis, and is actively recruiting new members. Attend the next meeting on August 9, 7 – 8:30, at St. Charles Catholic Church in Portland. Or contact Bob Brown firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can be involved with health care reform.