To improve health care, let's at least ask the right questions, OK?

By Samuel Metz, MD. Samuel is a private practice anesthesiologist, HCAO representative from the Portland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, and founding member of Mad As Hell Doctors.

Oregon’s HB 3260 study of health care financing: The life you save may be your own.

Oregon’s unpredictable health care system is a lot like our unpredictable weather: everyone complains, but no one does anything about it. Now Oregonians can finally do something about our unpredictable health care system (our unpredictable weather remains a problem).

Oregonians should support the HB 3260 study of health care financing. This study is the next and most critical step toward providing all of us with the care we need at a cost we can afford. And every Oregonian needs health care – if not today, just wait a few years.

What does this HB 3260 study have to do with health care? The short answer can be found at Here’s the more complete answer.

The world is filled with health care systems providing better care to more people for less money than our American private insurance industry. Unhappily, most of those successful health care systems are outside our borders. But domestic or international, all successful health care systems have much to teach us, if we are willing to learn.

Lesson one: Before you enact health care reform, know the alternatives. That’s where the HB 3260 study comes in. This measure, unanimously approved by Oregon’s House Health Committee and passed with bipartisan support, authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to study at least four methods of financing universal health care in Oregon. Upon completion, the OHA will send the results to our legislature with its recommendation of the best method to provide comprehensive care at the best price.

Lesson two: Credible information promotes wise choices. This makes HB 3260 study especially important. State legislatures in Vermont and California passed measures establishing universal statewide health care that expanded benefits and reduced cost. Vermont will implement its plan in 2017; the California legislature saw its measure vetoed by then Governor Schwarzenegger (the California legislature passed the measure again, and the Terminator vetoed it again). In both states, a study of health care financing authorized by the legislature provided critical information that motivated legislators to take positive, and reality-based, action.

Let’s put the lessons together. The HB 3260 study enables Oregon to provide better care to more people for less money.

So, what’s the catch?

Our legislature did not fund the HB 3260 study. Finding the money is up to us.

This study will cost $200,000. Considering that Oregonians spend over $30 billion annually on health care and that the study results potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars while improving access, that’s a good investment.

Contributors will be in good company. Supports of the study include the Oregon Medical Association, the Oregon Primary Care Association, the Oregon Public Health Association, the National Physicians Alliance, the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, and many business owners and private citizens. But we need more.

How can we promote the study? Three ways:

Few states have the opportunity that Oregon has right now. We want better care to more people for less money. Oregon’s HB 3260 study finally does something about it.

Oregon’s weather, well, that’s a problem for another legislative session.

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