Testimony on SB 99 A: Requires Oregon Health Authority to establish Oregon Health Insurance Exchange as public corporation to be governed by board of directors

Before the House Committee on Health Care

by Steve Buckstein

Click Here for Audio (Steve begins at the 31:56 mark)

Co-Chair Greenlick, Co-Chair Thompson and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I’m here today not to support or oppose SB 99 A, but to put on the record my concerns that if the state does enact an insurance exchange as envisioned in the bill, it should use the exchange as an opportunity to expand rather than restrict consumer choice.

As you may know, the U.S. House earlier this week voted to bar funding for state insurance exchanges. While this effort may very well fail, the Obama Administration took the vote as an opportunity to re-state its position that:

“Exchanges will allow Americans to compare prices and health insurance
plans and decide which quality, affordable option is right for them.”*

In order to make such decisions meaningful, Oregonians should have more insurance plan options than the state currently allows.  As I testified here on March 7th in favor of HB 2977, Oregonians should be allowed to purchase any policy offered in other states by companies licensed to sell insurance in those states. I’m sure that DCBS concerns about putting these companies on a level regulatory playing field with companies already approved to sell insurance in Oregon can be satisfied.

The exchange should also be open to approving new policies offered within Oregon that do not include all the current state mandates. Whatever decisions are made at the national level regarding the so-called “Essential Health Benefits” package, Oregon should be a leader in allowing our citizens as much choice as possible consistent with full disclosure. This will allow the exchange to satisfy the needs of consumers who want more affordable insurance choices as well as those who want more comprehensive coverage.

If the exchange does not offer such choices, it will quickly become part of the problem, both driving up costs and pushing more people out of the insurance marketplace.

In conclusion, I hope the exchange you envision is charged with helping to open up the insurance marketplace to more affordable plans, thus being be part of the solution.
Thank you, and I would be happy to take any questions.

* “House Votes to Bar U.S. Funding for Insurance Exchanges”, Bloomberg.com, May 4, 2011,

 

One Response to “Testimony on SB 99 A: Oregon Health Insurance Exchange as public corporation to be governed by board of directors”

  1. Cathryn June 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    Mr. Buckstein,

    The insurance exchange bill passed today and I am looking forward to analysis of the bill by Cascade.I am however, not hopeful that the suggestions referenced above were taken into consideration given the political climate here in Oregon.

    Yet another reason to plan our exit – we are losing hope. We may be Idaho bound very soon.

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