Brown appoints panel to address health care costs

October 23, 2019 GMT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced the members of a new committee tasked with controlling rising health care costs.

The Statesman Journal reports the committee — made up of government officials, union representatives and health care professionals — is responsible for creating an annual target for health care cost growth and providing recommendations to the Legislature on how to manage unreasonable costs.

Insurance companies, hospitals and health care providers will be required to stay within that growth target.

The first benchmark from the committee will be reported to the Oregon Health Policy Board for approval by Sept. 15, 2020. The committee’s report will include a legislative concept for implementation and possible enforcement actions if a provider or payer exceeds that target.

“All Oregonians should have access to the health care services they need to live healthy and productive lives,” Brown said in a statement. “If we do not control the rising costs of health care, too many Oregon families, particularly those in historically underserved communities, will again find the care they need is beyond their reach.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority, health insurance deductibles in Oregon are the third-highest nationally. The state is also in the top 10 for percent of family budgets spent on out-of-pocket health costs.

A 3.4 percent growth rate for public programs already exists, but this new benchmark would target the private market.

It’s modeled after a program in Massachusetts that has saved consumers $5.5 billion between 2013 and 2017 compared to the national average. Oregon was the fourth state to implement a spending benchmark.

It was created by the Legislature this year through Senate Bill 889, which received bipartisan support in both chambers.