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Consumers and small businesses may get better healthcare for lower costs if the Oregon Healthcare Exchange meets its potential.

In a step toward that making that a reality, yesterday afternoon the Exchange Board unanimously approved a business plan for the legislature to approve in the upcoming February session.

OSPIRG’s analysis is that a well-designed exchange is one of our best shots at reining in the soaring premiums and out-of-pocket costs facing families and small businesses across the state. But for the Exchange to reach its potential, it has to be designed well.

Done right, the Exchange will be a competitive marketplace that leverages the buying power of individuals and businesses to drive down costs and improve quality. 

We are encouraged that the business plan approved yesterday includes plans to set quality standards and create tools for consumers to compare plans apples-to-apples before making the choice that’s right for them.

Of course, the devil’s in the details. Once the business plan is approved by the Legislature in February, the staff and board of the exchange will get down to work fleshing out the plan.

Last week, OSPIRG joined with over a dozen groups signing onto a letter to the exchange leadership outlining key priorities for 2012 as they begin work on those details. For example, we continue to recommend that the exchange make sure the plans it offers are the best ones out there, in terms of cost and quality. By bringing to bear the buying power of the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians that will buy through the exchange, it can negotiate better deals for all of us, much like large businesses do now.

We are encouraged by the Board’s direction at this relatively early stage of the Exchange’s development. We will closely monitor the process as the details take shape, and will continue to advocate for specific steps to ensure the Exchange meets its potential for Oregon.

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