A House bill addressing problems with the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange's rollout passed the Oregon House on Tuesday with a 55-3 vote. Two representatives were excused.
House Bill 4154 requires Cover Oregon to work with the federal government to seek waivers that would help Oregonians who were disadvantaged by the health insurance exchange's technical problems and delayed system launch.
It also extends whistle-blower protection to Cover Oregon employees and specifies the governor's authority to remove board members.
Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a statement applauding the bill's passage, praising the Legislature for showing "strong, bipartisan commitment to quality, affordable health care for Oregonians."
"The roll-out of the Cover Oregon website has not met our expectations, but it hasn't shaken our belief that everyone across the state deserves quality health care at an affordable price," Kitzhaber's statement continued. "With this bill, we are showing that our Legislature is focused on finding meaningful solutions to move forward for the benefit of all Oregonians."
The bill heads to the Senate floor.
The Cover Oregon bill sparked some disagreements in the Capitol this session, as amendments Republicans attempted to include in the bill were shut down by Democrats in the House health care committee. Rep. Jason Conger attempted multiple times to pass amendments he said would toughen up accountability and transparency around the health insurance exchange debacle.
Two amendments were approved for Senate Bill 1562, which originally didn't have much to do with Cover Oregon. The amendments would require the Cover Oregon director to report to Senate and House health care committees after the end of the 2014 session an updated business plan. It also would require Cover Oregon to make publicly available any audits, reviews and investigations commissioned by the state. The Senate bill is now awaiting Kitzhaber's signature.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1582, which authorizes funding to temporarily extend the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool program, passed the joint budget committee Monday. An amendment also would allow the Oregon Insurance Division to permit insurance companies to continue offering non-compliant health plans to current customers.