EDITORIAL

Oregon’s health bill

There is no single solution to the $1.6 billion budget problem that Oregon lawmakers are wrestling with as they prepare for the two-year cycle that starts July 1.

But there is at least one partial solution, and it’s one lawmakers ought to have made even before the state confronted such a yawning budget chasm.

We’re talking about how much Oregon is spending to provide health insurance to state employees.

Put simply, we’re spending more public dollars than we need to in this area. Consider these statistics, published recently by the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper:

• Oregon pays an average of $16,992 per state worker per year. Washington, meanwhile, spends $12,312 per employee, and California $15,500.

• Oregon state workers pay 5 percent of their premiums, compared with Washington employees who pay 15 percent, and Californians who pay 23 percent.

• A Pew Charitable Trust study ranked Oregon’s health insurance costs for state workers as the sixth-most expensive among states, with the fifth-lowest contribution from its workers.

This situation is indefensible at a time when Oregon’s budget crisis threatens to cancel subsidized insurance for 300,000 low-income residents.

Of course the unions that represent state workers won’t blithely accept changes that force their members to pay more, or reduce their level of coverage.

But just four years ago, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber discussed moving state workers into the Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) that serve Medicaid patients. Kitzhaber estimated that change could save the state $1 billion per biennium.

House Bill 3428, sponsored by Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, would move state workers into CCOs. Her bill deserves serious consideration before the Legislature adjourns this summer.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of publisher Kari Borgen, editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.

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