BY ROBIN DOUSSARD
Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court that left standing the basic provisions of the Obama Administration’s health care overhaul also put the spotlight on Gov. John Kitzhaber and Oregon's own health care reform efforts.
In a statement released shortly after this morning’s historic ruling, Kitzhaber said:
"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, which will help all Oregonians, including the 600,000 Oregonians who are uninsured, have better access to health coverage. It's a vindication of the Obama Administration's bold approach. Oregon’s health transformation initiative is well underway. We’re moving forward with Coordinated Care Organizations that will transform Medicaid for better health and lower cost. And the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange will be a central marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for health plans and receive help paying for coverage."
He elaborated a bit in an interview with the Oregonian, saying that the court’s ruling does not affect Oregonian's expansion of the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan.
“We'll make a decision on whether or not to expand the Medicaid program really based on, I think, the resources we have available in the general fund for that purpose going forward. I would say we're way ahead of other states.”
To prove the point, the Oregon Health Authority announced that eight new health care organizations (Coordinated Care Organizations, or CCOs) were certified to begin serving Oregon communities starting Aug. 1. The CCOs were approved by the Legislature earlier this year and were key in the plan to deliver health care at lower costs to the state’s Medicaid recipients.
The Oregon Health Insurance Exchange also sent out a release that starting in October 2013, “Oregonians will be able to shop for health insurance in a new way. The Oregon Health Insurance Exchange will be a central marketplace where individual consumers and small employers can easily compare plans, enroll, and receive help paying for coverage. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act, which provides the start-up funding necessary for the Exchange to be ready for open enrollment and provides Oregonians with tax credits and other financial assistance to help pay for plans through the Exchange.”
Local business groups weighed in. Lee Mercer, director of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, sent a release out with quotes from local businesspeople praising the ruling.
From Jim Houser, Hawthorne Auto Clinic, Portland, co-chair Main Street Alliance of Oregon: "I joined the fight for health care reform because I knew from painful experience that the insurance companies weren't meeting the needs of small businesses. After nearly 10 years of double-digit premium increases, the ACA provided my small business over $12,000 a year in tax credits and an over 3% drop in premiums. (And my two children were able to rejoin our health plan.) I saw the campaign to reform health care in this country as an investment in the success of my small business. The Court's decision to affirm the ACA, and the wisdom of our President and Congress, is a great day for America and for America’s small businesses.”
From the opposite end of the spectrum, the Statesman Journal quoted the National Federation of Independent Business, which joined in legal challenges to the federal law, was disappointed in the outcome. “While very disappointed, we respect today’s decision to uphold the individual mandate,” said Jan Meekcoms, Oregon state director for NFIB.
Reaction from Oregon’s Washington delegation fell along party lines, with the Democratic members praising the ruling, and the lone Republican vowing to repeal the health care law.
Robin Doussard is the Editor in Chief of Oregon Business.