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More needs to be done on health care


Walking door-to-door, people often tell me their concerns about obtaining affordable health care. Some have no health care coverage; others who have health insurance have seen their costs double or triple. For families facing job loss, adding on the burden of health insurance only makes their lives more difficult.

The challenges many families face are both physical ailments and mental health issues. As we work to transform our health care system, we must always remember to treat both the physical and mental health issues of our citizens.

As a retired faculty member with the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at OHSU and past president of the Oregon Public Health Association, I believe strongly that we need to fix our health care problems. We've made progress in recent years, but there's much more to be done.

Health care reforms are underway in Oregon. Two key bills were passed by the 2012 legislature.

One law formed Coordinated Care Organizations that will focus on prevention and early intervention of health care problems for Medicaid recipients.

The other law created a Health Care Exchange to be implemented over the next two years to provide increased coverage for Medicaid recipients, individuals, small businesses, and public employees. The exchanges will offer a menu of insurance offered at affordable prices. Oregon Healthy Kids already provides coverage on a sliding scale for Oregon children. Now, we need to extend that opportunity to adults as well.

Several steps need to be taken to address health care:

n Insurance companies need to provide detailed documentation on their overhead costs and rate increases and the documentation needs to be scrutinized thoroughly.

n The exchanges need to include public employees and small businesses as soon as possible. Waiting until 2014 for full implementation prolongs difficulties for people.

n We need to prevent the use of tobacco, alcohol and other harmful drugs for youth and encourage them to eat nutritious foods and have fun exercising. Preventing tobacco consumption and increasing healthy eating and exercise patterns in youth will prevent a large portion of health care costs.

n It would be useful to allocate 1/2 of 1 percent of the Coordinated Care Organization risk pool funds to addiction and mental health prevention and treatment and have the exchanges include mental health problem prevention and rapid intervention as part of insurance coverage.

We need to make sure everyone with physical health and disability and mental health problems has affordable care that is focused on prevention while controlling the costs our families and businesses pay for coverage.

Katie Riley is a Democratic candidate for House District 29, which includes west Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove