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Feb-14-2007 19:56printcomments

Oregon House Speaker Merkley Presses Healthy Kids Bill

The Revenue Committee approved the Healthy Kids bill by a 6-3 vote.

Oregon State Capitol building in Salem

(SALEM) - House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D-Portland) testified Wednesday before the House Revenue Committee in support of House Bill 2201, the Healthy Kids bill.

The Healthy Kids bill would provide the 117,000 children in Oregon who do not have health insurance with coverage.

Merkley told the committee that House leaders from both parties had spent hours in negotiations over the last 10 days trying to find agreement on the disputed parts of the bill.

He said that while the leaders could not come to a full agreement on changes to the bill, some very good ideas surfaced that were worthy of the committee’s consideration.

“I had hoped to come here arm-in-arm with the Republican leadership and present a strong set of amendments with broad bipartisan support,” Merkley told the committee.

“But although that is not the case, I want to sincerely thank the members from both parties who were willing to sit down and spend so much time trying to make this bill the very best it could be.”

Merkley presented several amendments to the committee that grew out of those negotiations.

The amendments will take full advantage of cost-sharing arrangements offered by the federal government, maximize the number of Oregon children covered under the plan, and make health care for families not only more affordable but more accessible.

The amendments offered by Merkley were accepted unanimously.

Together they will; reduce the subsidy threshold in the bill from 350 to 300% of the federal poverty level; strengthen residency requirements, and give families in rural areas greater access to health care resources.

“It would be irresponsible for us to leave federal dollars for this program on the table,” Merkley said. By reducing the threshold any lower than 300% of the federal poverty level, Oregon would lose matching funds that would otherwise help pay for the program.

The bill will also increase access to health care in rural areas by establishing a 24-Hour Medical Advice Hotline; establish a Healthy Kids information hotline where parents will receive information about health care providers in their communities; and increase access to federally qualified health clinics, safety net clinics, and school based health clinics.

“Nothing we will consider this session is more important for families than affordable, accessible health care for all Oregon’s children.” Merkley said.

The Revenue Committee approved the Healthy Kids bill by a 6-3 vote.

The bill will proceed to the Joint Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.

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Henry Clay Ruark February 15, 2007 8:55 am (Pacific time)

For the record: Big Tobacco ponied up $350,000 last year opposing ANY anti-smoking OR tax-laws. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND of that went to "campaign contributions". WHo do you suppose now opposes this commonsense situation ? "Transactional lobbying" has gotta END !!

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