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Senate Hearing for Health Care for All Oregon Act - Join Us May 4 - Carpool

Job Announcement: Health Care for All-Oregon seeks Executive Director

    Health Care for All-Oregon seeks a dynamic and creative Executive Director to shape, inspire, and manage the organization’s future, in close collaboration with its talented team of hard-working staff, enthusiastic statewide volunteers and committed Board of Directors. 
    Health Care for All-Oregon is a 501©(4) nonprofit based in Portland, OR, with a sister organization, the HCAO Education Fund, a 501©(3) charitable organization. HCAO is a statewide coalition of over 110 member organizations, working to bring universal, publicly funded health care to Oregon and (eventually) the entire United States.
    The Executive Director is responsible for operations and personnel management, fundraising and fiscal oversight, board engagement and community relations, and working with a growing network of volunteers building Oregon’s health care reform movement.
    For more information on HCAO and HCAO EF go to www.hcao.org  and www.hcaoef.org.
Please see Job Description Here.
     We offer competitive salaries, excellent benefits, a pleasant working environment and an exciting opportunity to work for one of Oregon’s foremost change campaigns. Salary is based on a nonprofit scale ranging from $45,000 to $55,000, commensurate with experience.
      HCAO is committed to workplace diversity and inclusion. We are an equal opportunity employer and do not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law. Qualified candidates from diverse personal, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
    To apply: Send a cover letter describing why you believe you are a strong candidate for this position, a resume describing relevant education, training and employment and three references to: Health Care for All-Oregon, 619 SW 11th Ave., #121, Portland, OR 97205, or e-mail to lee@mainstreetalliance.org. Applications will be reviewed beginning April 30, 2015.

For further information contact Lee Mercer, President, Health Care for All-Oregon, 831-818-5247lee@mainstreetalliance.org

Prescription price shock: OSU/OHSU study takes drug industry to task

Angie Mettie mettiea@ohsu.edu  Lead author Dan Hartung's study found that one drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

Angie Mettie mettiea@ohsu.edu  Lead author Dan Hartung's study found that one drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

Elizabeth Hayes Staff Reporter- Portland Business Journal
Health Care Inc. NW, Apr 24, 2015,

Drugs for treating multiple sclerosis have skyrocketed 700 percent in the past 20 years, even as newer drugs have come on the market, according to a study out today from researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University.

“New drugs came on the market 30 to 50 percent higher than existing therapies, which ratcheted up their prices to meet the prices of the new drugs,” said Dan Hartung, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy.

First-generation drugs from the 1990s ranged from $8,000 to $10,000 a year. Today, all MS drugs cost at least $50,000 a year, well above inflation, Hartung said. One drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

The study highlights an industry driven by profits, using non-transparent pricing policies, and to a healthcare system that places no limits on the escalation. Also, many “biologics,” or specialty drugs, don’t come in cheaper generic forms.

The end result? Another industry that’s “too big to fail,” the authors assert.

The study also compared the U.S. to other countries. MS drugs here cost two to three times the list prices in Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom, where the governments purchase medications directly from vendors.


Healthcare Industry Convinces Courtney to Kill Price Transparency Bill

A compromise measure from Sen. Steiner Hayward that would have opened up health insurance tools with price information to all consumers won the needed support of Sen. Monnes Anderson, but last-minute pressure on the state’s top lawmaker stopped the price transparency bill dead in its tracks.

by Chris Gray, for The Lund Report, April 22, 2015

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, halted a legislative effort to force hospitals and health insurers to be more candid about their prices following closed-door negotiations with their influential lobbyists.

The move rankled some in Courtney’s caucus who have been steeling for greater reforms after Oregon was given an F along with 44 other states by the Catalyst for Payment Reform, a national organization that scores states on price transparency. Four East Coast states plus Colorado got a passing grade.

Senate Bill 891 in its original form would have required hospitals to post their prices for common procedures paid by health insurers, Medicare, Medicaid, the school districts and state employees. In the amended version, the public would be given access to online tools with price information from the health insurers that is currently given only to enrolled health plan members.

“I was all set to move it,” Monnes Anderson told The Lund Report. “There were some political decisions made at a higher grade than I,” including “negotiations in the president’s office” with insurers, who claimed the Legislature was already asking a lot from them, she said.


Insurers backed Obamacare, then undermined it. Now they're profiting from it

Commentary: playing all sides of the street on Obamacare

by Wendell Potter
The Center for Public Integrity, April 20, 2015

Anyone who still thinks the Affordable Care Act was a “government takeover of health care” should consider this headline from the news pages of last Thursday’s Investor’s Business Daily:
UnitedHealth Profit Soars On Obamacare, Optum—April 16, 2015

That’s from a Wall Street publication whose editorial writers have rarely missed an opportunity to bash the health care reform law. Here are a few other headlines, these from IBD’s editorial page, just since the first of this year.
More Phony ObamaCare Numbers From The White House—March 16, 2015
Shock Poll: Half The Uninsured Want Obamacare Repealed—March 3, 2015
Democrats Keep Running Away From ObamaCare—February 2015
CBO Now Says 10 Mil Will Lose Employer Health Plans Under ObamaCare—January 27, 2015

It wouldn’t surprise me if UnitedHealth Group executives helped shape the opinions of those editorial writers during the reform debate.  One of the things I did in my old job  as head of PR for one of the country’s other big for profit-insurers was arranging for my CEO to have “desk side chats” with bigwigs at important publications like Investor’s Business Daily. We would often leave those meetings with an invitation to submit an op-ed, as was the case several years ago when Ed Hanway, Cigna’s CEO at the time, and I visited with then Dow Jones CEO Peter Kann and Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page.


Why the Private Health Insurance Industry Has to Go

by John Geyman MD
for Physicians for a National Health Program, Apr 8, 2015

The private health insurance industry in the U.S. has had a long run since shifting to medical underwriting and a for-profit status in the early 1960s. It finds itself increasingly dependent on the government as the costs and prices of health care have continued upward since the 1980s. Its many perks from government include tax exemptions for employer-sponsored insurance (ESI), privatized Medicare and Medicaid programs, and longstanding over-payments to Medicare Advantage programs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has added to these perks since 2010 with subsidized premiums through the exchanges, a “risk corridor system” to protect insurers from losses, and allowing automatic self-renewal for 2015 plans. (1)

Incremental attempts to contain health care costs and reform the system since the 1990s have built upon our current multi-payer financing system. After five years’ experience with the ACA, we now know that insurers themselves are a major barrier to achieving the kind of access to affordable care that our population so desperately needs.

Here are some of the major reasons why private health insurers warrant no further bailout by government and taxpayers.


#BlackLivesMatter — A Challenge to the Medical and Public Health Communities

Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H.

Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H.

by Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H.
N Engl J Med 2015; 372:1085-1087March 19, 2015DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1500529

Two weeks after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the police officer involved in the death of a black man, Eric Garner, I delivered a lecture on the potential for partnership between academia and health departments to advance health equity. Afterward, a group of medical students approached me to ask what they could do in response to what they saw as an unjust decision and in support of the larger social movement spreading across the United States under the banner #BlackLivesMatter. They had staged “white coat die-ins” (see photoUniversity of Vermont Medical Students during a “Die-In” Protest.) but felt that they should do more. I wondered whether others in the medical community would agree that we have a particular responsibility to engage with this agenda.

Should health professionals be accountable not only for caring for individual black patients but also for fighting the racism — both institutional and interpersonal — that contributes to poor health in the first place? Should we work harder to ensure that black lives matter?

As New York City's health commissioner, I feel a strong moral and professional obligation to encourage critical dialogue and action on issues of racism and health. Ongoing exclusion of and discrimination against people of African descent throughout their life course, along with the legacy of bad past policies, continue to shape patterns of disease distribution and mortality.1 There is great injustice in the daily violence experienced by young black men. But the tragedy of lives cut short is not accounted for entirely, or even mostly, by violence. In New York City, the rate of premature death is 50% higher among black men than among white men, according to my department's vital statistics data, and this gap reflects dramatic disparities in many health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV. These common medical conditions take lives slowly and quietly — but just as unfairly. True, the black–white gap in life expectancy has been decreasing,2 and the gap is smaller among women than among men. But black women in New York City are still more than 10 times as likely as white women to die in childbirth, according to our 2012 data.