Oregon legislature aims to put ‘patients over profits’ in passing bill to review health care mergers and acquisitions

Legacy of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland.

MO Stevens / Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the 2021 session, Oregon legislators passed bill requiring the state Department of Consumer and Business Services and the Oregon Health Authority to approve mergers and acquisitions by healthcare companies.

House Bill 2362 – which was passed with tight margins in both the House (32-23) and Senate (16-12) – is an attempt to cement equitable and affordable access to health care by establishing a process of oversight for proposed health care transactions .

It directs the OHA and DCBS to convene a review committee to hold public hearings and make recommendations based on their review of mergers, acquisitions, contracts and links between health systems.

According to OHA data provided in a legislature update last year, healthcare costs for Oregonians have increased 29% over the past four years.

Consolidation in the healthcare system is also increasing at the national and domestic levels. According to policy research firm Mathematica, more than half of their doctors in metropolitan areas were involved in major health systems in 2018.

The bill’s lead sponsor Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, said the move will give Oregon patients and communities a voice when hospitals make decisions that could increase costs or cut services.

“Often times, the public isn’t even aware that a transaction is planned until the deal is final – or when the hospital’s debt collection agent calls. With HB 2362 we ensure that patients are not left in the dark, ”said Salinas.

HB 2362 was sponsored by Oregon’s largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 503.

SEIU Political Director Felisa Hagins told OPB earlier this week that rising healthcare costs are not just a “burden” for the workers they represent, but for the entire communities in which their members live. This point underscores the union’s support for the law.

House Democrats said during the 2021 session that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on Oregonians who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), especially those who are women, and that rising healthcare costs are increasing inequalities systems in our health care have fueled and continue to destabilize BIPOC communities economically.

Aloha Democrat Rep. Wlnsvey Campos said Friday that access to quality, affordable health care for many Oregonians is a matter of life and death, and that this bill recognizes the time to make changes to hospitals and health systems curb that “exceed profits”. Patients. “

But Christine Drazan, the leader of the Republican House of Representatives, questioned the motives of the Democrats in the House of Representatives who brought up the bill.

Drazan said she didn’t feel the bill was about protecting affordability for patients, but rather a political issue of whether the Democrats want certain entities to be merged.

She also claimed that healthcare costs are rising because healthcare workers’ wages need to rise.

“There are a lot of things going on in health care right now that are being discussed in this panel that I fully support that come at a cost,” said Dazan. “It’s not one of them. This is a political response to a political concern. “

The bill is now going to Governor Kate Brown for approval.

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