In recent years, thanks in part to OSPIRG’s advocacy, Oregon has taken important steps towards slowing the rising cost of health care. However, whether it's through insurance premiums, prescriptions, or expensive tests and procedures, Oregonians still pay too much for health care. With the state legislature convening last month,here are five ways lawmakers can help this year:
- Pass a public option. In 2017, 51% of Oregonians either had difficulty paying medical bills or deferred health care due to its cost. In addition, small businesses often can’t afford to offer insurance to employees, especially in a pandemic when they are struggling to keep the doors open. A public option that establishes a lower premium and/or lower cost-sharing would give consumers the ability to choose options that fit their health needs rather than financial needs. OSPIRG is working with Rep. Andrea Salinas to introduce a bill this year that would establish a public option.
- Create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB). A 2019 study estimated that on average, Oregonians pay five times the highest international price for prescription drugs. The high cost often leads to practices like rationing medication and skipping doses, or even not filling prescriptions at all. A PDAB establishes limits on how much can be paid for certain medications so the cost goes down for seniors and families.
- Ban pay-for-delay and institute disclosure requirements for pharmaceutical sales representatives. Currently, brand-name drug companies can pay generic manufacturers to stay out of the market so that generic alternatives are not available. These brand names are, on average, 10 times more expensive than the generic. Banning this practice opens the market for generic drugs so that Oregonians don’t have to skip, ration, or not fill prescriptions that they can’t afford. In addition, the number one way prescription drugs are sold is through closed door sales meetings. Registration and financial disclosure requirements will increase transparency in the pharmaceutical sales industry.
- Support the Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target program. The cost of health in Oregon is only projected to grow in the future. In order to slow the growth of spending on health care, the Health Care Cost Growth Target Committee heading up the program has set a goal of limiting health care spending increases to 3.4% a year. The target will apply to insurance companies and health care providers, and require reporting on cost increases each year to ensure the target is realistic and achieved. Adopting the committee’s recommendations, including methods to reach the cost growth target and accountability measures for insurance carriers and providers that don’t, could save an estimated $16 billion dollars in spending by 2027.
- Ensure transparency in healthcare mergers. As the pandemic causes financial problems for health care providers across the state, it is likely that mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships will increase. Unfortunately, health care consolidation often leads to higher prices and health care inequities within communities. Requiring transparent communication about the effects of the merger, as well as community engagement in the process, will enhance oversight for these transactions and protect access to low-cost, high quality care.