REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
HB 2010 Bill Signing – Oregon Health Plan Funding
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
I am pleased to be with you here today to sign House Bill 2010 into law. It is a significant step forward in ensuring every single Oregonian has access to affordable health coverage.
It was a monumental task to pass this bill so early in the legislative session -- and with bipartisan support. I would like to thank members of the business community, health care community, labor, and legislators for coming together and taking a consensus-building approach to solving Oregon’s health care funding challenge.
When people have access to health care, the larger community benefits. Children can go to school regularly. Adults can go to work and make a living without worrying about crushing medical bills. Employers have a healthier workforce, which leads to lower insurance costs. And fewer people rely on social services.
Oregon has long been a leader in health care access -- with 94 percent of adults covered, either with employer-sponsored insurance, individually purchased coverage, or through the Oregon Health Plan. However, to maintain that coverage and continue to improve health across the state, we needed a longer-term, sustainable funding source.
HB 2010 only covers a portion of what we need for our health care system. So, as we celebrate today, we need to immediately turn our focus to filling the rest of the Oregon Health Plan funding gap.
I identified two proposals in my budget.
The first proposal taxes e-cigarettes and increases the cigarette tax by $2 per pack. E-cigarettes are the fastest growing tobacco product. From 2013 to 2015, e-cigarette use in 11th graders increased from 5% to 17%.
Raising the tobacco tax is the most effective and proven way to reduce tobacco use. And the good news is, Oregonians are supportive. Quitting tobacco use has immediate health benefits and will provide long-term health care cost savings.
The second proposal aims to address the cost-shifting to the state and federal government that occurs when employers do not provide affordable coverage to their workers. Consequently, workers often turn to public programs. Like the Oregon Health Plan or subsidies through the Health Insurance Marketplace. I have proposed creating a Subsidized Employer Assessment, which would assess employers that do not meet the threshold for health care contributions on behalf of their workers.
Securing this funding package will ensure Oregonians continue to get the health care coverage they need to thrive and will enable a balanced budget for the Oregon Health Plan for the next six years.
That’s why we must continue to work together and come at this challenge with a consensus-driven approach. I know we can do it, and I look forward to the work in the weeks ahead.