Diagnosis unknown: Will a health exchange help?

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By Linda Baker

1211_DiagnosisUnknown_02
“We want to design an exchange that is so good people are going to want to be part of it as opposed to being pushed into it,” says Aelea Christofferson, a Bend businesswoman who serves on the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange Board.
// Photo by Randy Johnson

Lurking behind every Oregon small business is a health insurance tale of hardship and woe. At Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, co-owner Jim Houser pays $100,000 annually in premiums to cover his nine full-time employees and their families. That’s about double the amount he paid 10 years ago and 20% of payroll, he says. Aelea Christofferson, owner of ATL Communications in Bend, is locked into a one-size-fits-all plan that compels her older employees to pay the same deductible as her employees with small children. Jose Gonzalez, principal of Tu Casa Real Estate in Salem, has no insurance for himself or the eight agents he employs. “It’s too expensive,” he says simply.

Never-ending rate increases and lack of options are among the reasons why Christofferson, Houser and Gonzalez have high hopes for a new health-insurance program created by the passage of Senate Bill 99 this past June. Scheduled to launch on Jan. 1, 2014, the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange will be an online marketplace where individuals and employers with fewer than 50 employees can shop for health insurance while potentially qualifying for small-business tax credits and individual subsidies. The goal is to create an easy-to-navigate website where consumers can compare health plans on the basis of cost, quality and individual health needs.

“The exchange will be a trusted resource,” says Gonzalez, who, along with Christofferson, is one of three small-business representatives Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed to the 3-month-old Health Insurance Exchange Board. (Houser is a member of the Health Exchange Consumer Advisory Group.) “It will allow me to protect my family and employees.” Other small-business advocates are even more enthusiastic. “To call the exchange transformational is too little a word,” says Ryan Deckert, president of the Oregon Business Association. “It will change the whole way individuals and businesses purchase health care.”

But if anticipation is running high, the challenges — and uncertainties — ahead are significant. The board, which is crafting a business plan for the exchange, due February 2012, must also resolve a variety of complex policy issues, ranging from types of insurance plans and rates to the construction of a consumer-friendly website. At stake is more than the design of a system that will appeal to small businesses and insurance companies alike. A bigger question is whether the exchange, which is less an overhaul of a broken system than an incremental market-based reform, can actually make a dent in the affordability and accessibility of health care — especially in Oregon, which already has one of the most competitive small-group insurance markets in the country.

“The long-term goal is to leverage the purchasing power of the exchange to help improve health-care quality and outcomes, which will eventually impact cost,” says Rocky King, executive director of the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange, a public corporation. If the exchange fails to accomplish this broader task, says King, its impact will be limited. “It will be nothing more than a market aggregator.”

1211_DiagnosisUnknown_Chart01

1211_DiagnosisUnknown_Chart02

1211_DiagnosisUnknown_Graph01



 

More Articles

Back to School

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

Oregon is home to an abundance of gritty warehouses reborn as trendy office spaces, as well as crafty hipsters turned entrepreneurs. Does the combination yield an equally bounteous office products sector? Not so much. Occupying the limited desk jockey space are Field Notes, a spinoff of Portland’s Draplin Design Company, and Schuttenworks, known for whittling Apple device stands. For a full complement of keyboard trays, docking stations and mouse pads, check out the GroveMade line, guaranteed to boost the cachet of even the lowliest cubicle drone. 


Read more...

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

Fueling Up for the Climb

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY GREGG MORRIS

Rita Hansen aims to scale natural gas vehicle innovation.


Read more...

The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Read more...

5 things to know about veterans in the workforce

The Latest
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
070215-vetsthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are more than 10 million former military members working in the United States.


Read more...

Big Trouble in China?

Guest Blog
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
0818-wellmanthumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Earlier this month, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) announced they were going to devalue their currency, the Renminbi. While the amount of the targeted change was to be roughly 2 percent, investors read a lot more into the move. The Renminbi had been gradually appreciating against the U.S. dollar (see chart) as to attempt to alleviate concerns of being labeled a currency manipulator.


Read more...

Storyteller in Chief: Natural Prophets

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY SAM BLACKMAN

Storyteller-in-chief with the CEO and co-founder of Elemental Technologies.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS