Community based solution to health care crisis

Press release from Senator Chris Telfer

As businesses and individuals face skyrocketing health care costs, Senator Chris Telfer (R-Bend) is offering a solution that builds on the power of private-public partnerships to bring health care to the working uninsured. Senate Bill 862 empowers communities to provide workers with access to health care services by forging partnerships between employers, employees and community providers.

“Local communities have many of the tools needed to provide uninsured workers access to affordable health care services” said Telfer. “This bill will enable communities to partner together and be proactive in caring for their uninsured.”

The bill would allow Oregon communities to follow the successful model of Access Health in Muskegon, Michigan. Using what is called a “multi-share model,” employers, employees and the community at-large help contribute to the overall cost of health services. By the end of last year, more than 1,150 individual employees and dependents were receiving health care services through Access Health at a cost of $49 per month per individual. There are now nearly a dozen multi-share programs across the nation.

The services are tailored specifically to each community’s priorities and funding availability. Most basic health care services are included. More importantly, such programs require a unique partnership with each member – empowering them to become better health care consumers while also holding members accountable to complete an annual health risk assessment and health improvement activities. Such measures have been essential in keeping costs low and membership dues affordable.

There are currently four community organizations covering eight counties in Oregon who have a multi-share model in their strategic plan as a way to assist with improving access for low-wage uninsured workers.

“¢ 100% Access Healthcare Initiative — Lane County
“¢ Northeast Oregon Network – Union, Baker and Wallowa counties
“¢ Healthcare for Klamath — Klamath County
“¢ HealthMatters of Central Oregon — Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties

“This model is successful because it is built on the collaboration of all concerned parties: employees, employers, providers and the local community,” said Telfer. “As a legislative body, we must recognize that health care is local — and that it’s our obligation to help create an environment for collaboration and innovation so communities can meet their unique needs.”

If this bill is adopted, employees who have been unable to buy health insurance will have access to affordable and necessary health care services. Providers like hospitals and doctors would be able to cut down on expensive emergency care to the uninsured, for which they often don’t see reimbursement. By offering preventative care and basic health services, the uninsured, employers and doctors all would benefit.