By Representative Rob Nosse

One of my roles in the Oregon legislature is serving as vice-chair of the House Health Care Committee. That means a lot of my work in Salem focuses on issues like licensure for practicing medical professionals; scope of practice issues and who gets to do what with patients, and overall healthcare costs; the last one being a hot topic these days. (Actually when has the cost of healthcare not been a hot topic?)

In light of a chaotic situation at the federal level, I thought I would offer a preview of what topics we are likely to see in the healthcare space in the legislature in the upcoming session in February of 2018. (Yes we are already planning for 2018.)

My personal project is around the high cost of prescription drugs. Last session I attempted to pass an aggressive bill that would have required that insurer plans keep the cost of co-pays and co-insurance for medications reasonable, while at the same time creating a state fund for drug manufacturers to pay into that would keep insurance rates down. In 2018, I will be working on a scaled back version of that bill, which we can hopefully build on in future sessions.

This new bill will be based on California’s recent passage of Senate Bill 17, and focuses mainly on drug pricing transparency. When I was working on my bill in the last session, I often heard that the high costs were justified by expansive R&D costs, and that the savings in hospital costs outweighed the cost to the consumer for these drugs.

The fact of the matter is there’s not much transparency in how these prices are set or why they increase. This new bill I’m working on would require explanations for why there was a dramatic price increase, similar to how insurers must justify their rates to the state. I think this is a good starting point, and will create a foundation for future legislation in this space.

My friend and colleague Representative Mitch Greenlick is also working on something called the HOPE Amendment. This would ultimately be referred to the voters, but if it passed, it would enshrine in our state constitution that our government has a responsibility to take care of citizens’ health, effectively moving us towards healthcare as a human right. As a long-time proponent of universal healthcare, I strongly support this effort. I think it moves us closer to that goal.

Unfortunately There are some bad ideas coming forward, too.

After a bipartisan group of legislators worked with stakeholders all across the healthcare industry to prop up the Oregon Health Plan and save healthcare benefits for 1 million Oregonians, Representative Julie Parrish is working to undo that work by referring it to the ballot. It might not seem intuitive but the correct vote on the soon to be Ballot Measure 101 is a “yes” vote.  It is crucial that this ballot measure passes and we protect the rights of Oregonians to have access to affordable healthcare.

If this measure fails, we’re looking at Oregon’s own personal “repeal without replace.” That kind of step backwards was defeated at the federal level, and we must stop it here.