Rep. Dennis Richardson: Special Session Update

Oregon Special Session””Week 1 Issues:
Health Care; Licenses For Legal Residents Only;

$183m. Revenue Loss Threatens Recession

Today marks the completion of the first week of Oregon’s 2008 four-week Special “supplemental” Session. We were promised a non-controversial, bipartisan session, yet it opened with rancor and mistrust when the House Democrat leadership foisted on the Republicans the House rule 9.15, which was designed to silence the voice of minority legislators. We minority Legislators thoroughly expressed our disdain for the oppressive rule. The rule then passed and we all went to work. Today’s newsletter is a report on the following keys issues that surfaced during the first week of the 2008 Special Session:

“¢ House Bill 3614:
Expands number of children from low-income families covered by health insurance;
Provides grants to promote innovative delivery of health care.

“¢ House Joint Resolution 100
Constitutional Amendment creating “Fundamental Right” to affordable health care.

“¢ Senate Bill 1080A
NO Oregon Drivers Licenses or Id. Cards without:
Proof of legal residency documents;
Verifiable Social Security Numbers or valid exemptions for not having one.

“¢ Tune In Monday: Heritage Health Care Expert Comes to Oregon

“¢ Recognition: Sherrie Springer””Oregon’s Newest Legislator

House Bill 3614 in its final form is a tight bill with two key provisions:

First, Section 2 provides that children who come from homes at or near the federal poverty level and are enrolled for the Oregon Health Plan will remain covered for 12 months, instead of being required to re-enroll every 6 months. This provision alone is expected to increase the number of children on the OHP from 84,705 to 103,698 (18,993 additional insured children) between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2010. The cost to provide health insurance under the OHP to 19,000 Oregon children from poverty level families depends on when the program begins. Enrollment would ramp-up over time, so for the four-year period from July 2008 to July 2011, the cost to Oregon’s General Fund (income tax, plus lottery revenue), would be $22.5 million ($900,000 in the current 2007-09 biennium and $21.6 million in the 2009-11 biennium).

Second, Sections 3-7 provide grants to promote improved access to and effectiveness of health care delivery for families. There are to be four grants of $250,000 each, with at least one grant reserved for a project predominantly serving a rural Oregon area, and another grant reserved for a project that includes service to a rural Oregon area. The goals of the program are as follows:

“¢ Improve preventive health services;
“¢ Increase access to appropriate, affordable and efficiently delivered primary care for families;
“¢ Provide new access to health care for children;
“¢ Explore alternative models for reimbursement of health care services; and
“¢ Collect information to allow for an evaluation of each grant-funded project.

Section 3 (5)(a) of the bill states that this grant program is to,

“create incentives for collaboration, community-based organizations to bring diverse stakeholders together to coordinate, communicate and improve access to health care for local residents of the community.”

I believe local communities should prepare to eventually assume full responsibility for charity health care. Health care costs are increasing by 7-10% annually (compounding), and state revenues are increasing at less than ½ that rate. Thus, when you consider the spiraling costs of health care, the increasing caseloads and the aging population it becomes obvious, we have an unsustainable system. At the federal level the unfunded future liability for Medicare and Medicaid is trillions of dollars. At our state level, nearly every biennium in order to balance Oregon’s budget we face the challenge of cutting benefits, cutting people from coverage rolls and/or raising taxes. Such a flawed system cannot continue indefinitely. In my opinion, without complete reform, the collapse of our medical care system is inevitable. When state and federal governments no longer can bear the financial burden of providing health care for the elderly, the poor and the needy, providing that care will revert to local systems””public, private, faith-based. Such community participants and partnerships were the backbone of America’s philanthropic care before the Great Depression and The Great Society. If you have not considered the likelihood that our health system is going to collapse, I suggest you (1.) review our aging demographics and the diminishing ratio of wage earners to retirees; (2.) consider our lengthening life-spans; (3.) factor in the costs and consequences of new technological and pharmaceutical advances; (4.) chart medical inflation forecasts; then (5.) do the math.

House Joint Resolution 100: Next, my friend, State Representative Mitch Greenlick (D — Portland), again wants to place on the ballot an Amendment to the Oregon Constitutional creating a “Fundamental Right” to affordable health care. HJR 100 fails to define the benefits, the costs or who will pay for them. HJR 100 is the same as the 2007 session’s HJR 18, which passed the House on a near party-line vote, and died in the Senate. For a detailed review of the consequences of this utopian concept, click on my newsletter, entitled, “Constitutional Right to Health Care–High Road to Disaster.”

A reader’s survey was conducted at the end of my June 15, 2008 newsletter on HJR 18. The survey asked the following question:

Should Oregon pass a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing every legal resident access to health care as a “fundamental right”?

In the months following the June 2007 newsletter, 359 readers responded to the survey–which is a reasonable sampling. Of the 359 who responded to the above question, 14.8% favored and 85.2% opposed making health care a Constitutional “fundamental right”. You can read the survey’s results for yourself. I have sent them to Representative Greenlick; he opined that his newsletter readers might have responded differently.

Senate Bill 1080A is a long awaited bill to tighten security on who will qualify for an Oregon Drivers License or Identification Card. To illustrate how bad Oregon’s reputation has become, a friend of mine was visiting his son in Guatemala (his son was an American soldier station in the U.S. Embassy there). While walking the streets my friend got into a conversation with some locals. When he said he was from Oregon, these Guatemalan men got animated, and said, “Si, Oregon.” They knew about Oregon, even in Guatemala. One of the locals pulled from his wallet his Oregon Drivers License. He said when he traveled across the Mexican border into the U.S., he, like many others, were advised to first go to Oregon and get an Oregon Drivers License, then go to his intended destination. He was told having an Oregon Drivers License would be useful anywhere he wanted to live. Senate Bill 1080A finally will close the huge Oregon Drivers License loophole. Once it becomes law, those filing for or renewing their Drivers Licenses or Identification Cards will be required to show proof of Legal Residency and a valid Social Security Service Number. If an applicant is ineligible for a SS number, they will have to provide evidence of such. If someone with a temporary visa files for a license or Id. Card, their license or card will be dated to expire when their visa expires.

S.B. 1080 even provides for an ombudsman to help legal residents who are having difficulty getting the required documentation. S.B. 1080 is not a perfect bill, but it certainly helps restore the integrity of the Oregon Driver’s License issuing system.

$183 Million Reduction in State Revenues–March Revenue Forecast [LINK to Oregon Economic and Revenue Forecast””Summary””March 2008] Some readers may remember last August’s newsletter, entitled, “Oregon’s Revenues, Fees & Debt: Cycles for Boom & Bust”. In it I stated, “While the 2007-09 budget was being crafted, like a voice in the wilderness, I reminded my fellow legislators across the aisle that a 23 percent increase in government spending in a single budget is unsustainable and will have dire consequences when the next recession occurs.”

Although I had hoped the next recession would not strike Oregon so quickly, today’s announcement that Oregon’s Revenue Forecast was being downgraded by $183 million from the December 2007 Forecast is sobering. Oregon historically follows national economic trends and every American who watches the news and buys gasoline knows the housing slump and energy spike are a one-two punch to private, corporate and government budgets. Nevertheless, the March Forecast is a caution flag, not a fire alarm. While it is true Oregon’s housing starts were down 17% in 2007 and 11% in 2006, Oregon has one of the lowest housing foreclosure rates in the country. In addition, while it is true job growth is slowing, the number of new jobs in Oregon continues to be positive, as it has been for every quarter since the beginning of 2004.

Cautious eyes will be focused on the June 2008 Revenue Forecast. It will clearly reflect Oregon’s income tax revenue status after April 15th’s tax payments. The June Forecast should be an accurate indicator of Oregon’s economic strength for the remainder of the 2007-09 biennium.

Tune In Monday: Heritage Health Care Expert Comes to Oregon. On Monday, February 11th at 3:00 p.m., Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow with The Heritage Foundation, will address our House Health Policy Committee in Hearing Room D, here at the Capitol. Ed Haislmaier is an expert in health policy and a highly sought advisor on state-based health care reform. Ed will be here in Salem to brief policymakers on health care reform taking place in other states, and discuss reform opportunities for Oregon.

In just the past few days, Ed has been working with governors and state legislators in Mississippi, Montana, and Utah. Heritage’s efforts toward patient-centered health care are non-partisan, and include bipartisan policymakers from across the country. In the past year, Ed has helped develop health policy alternatives in Alaska, Washington, Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia and Maryland. He works closely with federal regulators to design new policy innovations in compliance with federal law.

Ed and The Heritage Foundation work to shed light on alternatives to government controlled health care. The Heritage Foundation believes every American should be able to pursue better opportunities, start their own businesses, or stay home with their families without putting their health care at risk. Ed’s input on health care reform being considered and implemented in other states can be of great value as we evaluate Oregon’s health care system and debate health care reform alternatives,.

Ed Haislmaier will be testifying before the House Health Policy Committee, Monday, February 11, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. in Hearing Room D. For those unable to come to the Capitol, the hearing can be accessed live on the internet by clicking here, then follow the prompts to “live today” and “currently streaming.”

That’s the news for the first week of this Special Session. The purpose of my newsletters is to give accurate information to Oregonians who care about their freedoms, their state and the future of both. This newsletter was long, and it took a long time to write; I send it to you solely to inform you on what is going on in your State Capitol. For those true-blue citizens who are still reading, I thank you for your interest and your patience. It’s been rightly said, “you may not care about politics, but politics cares about you. Keep informed. Get involved. Make a difference.