Ways and Means did not pass the Loan Forgiveness bill (HB 2858). Instead they put $1M funding for the rural health Loan Forgiveness program in the end-of-session budget bill, commonly known as the Christmas tree bill.
This is up from $525,000 that started the program in 2011 – 13.
This level of funding will allow the Office of Rural Health to increase the number of loans it provides to students in medical school, doctor of nursing, and physician assistant programs who commit to practicing in rural communities once they have completed their training.
This $1M combined with $4M in Loan Repayment constitutes a major step forward in Oregon’s rural health care workforce recruitment efforts.
HB 3367 – Tax Credit Extension & Senior Medical Tax Deduction Reform
The House combined all the tax credits into one bill and packaged them with reforms to the Senior Medical Tax Deduction.
The Rural Medical Provider Tax Credit is modified to require participation in Medicare and Medicaid. It also sets a minimum work requirement of 20 hours of work per week, averaged over the month.
The Senate added physicians with privileges at the Coos Bay hospital, who had previously been excluded, while continuing the exclusion for Klamath Falls hospital to which Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) objected during floor debate.
The trade-off for adding Coos Bay is the elimination of the 10-year grandfather
clause for recipients of the tax credits statewide for those who begin receiving the tax credit after January 1, 2014.
The Rural Medical Tax Credit also has a two-year sunset. Before the 2014 session, or 2015 session at the latest, there will be an effort to realign a number of the rural health incentive programs including this tax credit, the malpractice subsidy, loan repayment and loan forgiveness.
Two other Senators (Shields and Monnes Anderson) objected that the income cap approved by the Senate Health Committee was not left in the final form of the Rural Health Tax Credit. Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) asked, “Does someone who makes over $600,000 need a $5000 tax credit when my school district is laying off 29 teachers?”
The Rural EMT Tax Credit is extended for six years. Efforts to double the credit from $250 to $500 were lost when the revenue package in HB 2456 failed to pass the Senate.
The Senior Medical Tax Deductionis limited to those 62 and older (currently it applies to an entire household once one member turns 62).
One other change in the tax credit portion of the bill is a cap for those who can take the political contribution tax credit of $100,000 for individual filers and $200,000 for joint filers.
The bill passed the Senate 22 – 8. The House must agree to changes made in the bill before it goes to the Governor.
HB 3260 – Single Payer Study Bill
The Senate approved the single payer study bill 20 – 10.
The bill will look at four models for health care funding:
The Oregon Health Plan and tobacco enforcement in the Department of Justice will receive $116.1M from the Tobacco Master Settlement Funds. Another $4M will go to tobacco prevention and cessation programs and $4M to physical education grants through the Department of Education.
During discussion in Full Ways and Means, Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton) thought more should be used for tobacco cessation. He was assured that more is being spent on those programs but the funding comes out of a different pot of money.
Ways and Means approved the bill and sent it to the floor for debate.
HB 2997 - Direct Entry Midwives’ Licensing
This will require direct entry midwives to be licensed for the first time. During debate on the Senate floor, the two physicians in the Senate said they would support the bill but with reservations.
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland) said, “Quality control among direct entry midwives is variable.”
Sen. Alan Bates (D-Medford) said, until recently, they did not track number of deaths related to births with direct entry midwives. “We are beginning to collect those statistics and they are horrible.” He said licensing direct entry midwives is a step in the right direction.
The bill passed 29 - 1.
Sine Die is Nigh
Legislators took the 4thof July off, then worked through the weekend in an effort to finish up. But they didn’t quite make it. Senate President Peter Courtney says they have 14 more bills they have to consider before they adjourn. The Senate will be back on Monday morning to wrap things up.