How to make health insurance more affordable

As the Oregon legislature risks making matters worse by creating a brand-new health care system for us all (HB 2009), there are small changes legislators can enact now that will make a real difference. Two of them will be up for a public hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, February 18th at 3pm in Hearing Room D at the State Capitol.

One way to give Oregonians more insurance choices is for the state to give its own employees the same ability to choose a Health Savings Account as federal employees have. HSAs are a combination of a high deductible insurance policy and a tax-free health savings plan that, together, often can lower insurance costs and help employees save for retirement. Currently, the state doesn’t offer its workers any HSA options. Doing so will help make these attractive policies more available to the rest of us.

Second, Oregonians who purchase insurance individually, rather than through their employer, should be able to deduct their premiums for state income tax purposes just as employers do. It is fundamentally unfair to let employers deduct these costs but not let the rest of us deduct them when we pay out of our own pockets.

Both of these small, easy-to-enact ideas are up for discussion in the Oregon House Health Care Committee tomorrow. They’re House bills 2464 and 2465, both sponsored by Representative Ron Maurer. You can watch the hearing live online in Hearing Room D at the Capitol. Or, you can testify on one or both bills by just signing up in the room before the hearing begins at 3pm tomorrow. Just keep your testimony to three minutes or less, and, if possible, bring 25 written copies for the committee.

Steve Buckstein is founder and senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.