If you haven't seen the Oregonian's editorial on the Senate's health insurance exchange bill, it's worth a read. Unfortunately, the Oregon Senate decided to prohibit the exchange from negotiating with insurance companies to get consumers a better deal (which I'm sure insurers are happy about.)

But the fight's not over, because the House could decide to change that. Or, as the editorial noted dryly, "The exchange’s ability to negotiate price with insurers...is a matter the House could weigh in its deliberations."

Darn straight. The Oregon House ought to stand up to the health insurance lobby and pass a health insurance exchange that negotiates for a better price.

For what it's worth, here's my two cents about the Oregonian's editorial (and more analysis of the situation here):

  • They are correct that Oregon ought to pass a uniquely Oregon exchange, rather than let the feds do it for us.
  • They are correct that the Senate bill - SB 99 - prohibits the exchange from negotiating -- and that the House ought to fix this.
  • They are strangely dismissive of the problem created by an exchange governing board that allows members of the health insurance industry to make decisions about the exchange. To us, this is akin to letting the foxes into the henhouse - why would you let the insurance industry negotiate with itself?
  • They underestimate how much the exchange can be a tool to lower health care costs. Insurance companies have a considerable role to play by changing the way they pay doctors, incentivize preventative care, and other practices.

That said, I am glad the Oregonian focused on the need to negotiate for a better deal. Because that's honestly the most important thing. That's why hundreds of small business owners, and 20 of the state's leading consumer, senior and health advocates think we can do better.

So the message to the Oregon House today: give Oregonians an exchange that negotiates for lower prices and better plans.