Today, Governor Kitzhaber signed HB 4164, authorizing the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange.  The exchange is a marketplace where individual Oregonians and small businesses can shop for health insurance, comparing plans on cost and quality.  The exchange will make it easier to purchase insurance and improve value for consumers.

At today’s press conference, small business owner Steve Ferree of Mr. Rooter Plumbing spoke about how he and his wife usually spend 2-3 weeks trying to understand health plans and pick the best one for all of their employees.  With the exchange, small employers like Steve will be able to offer a defined contribution to their employees and let them use the ecchange to pick the plan that works best for them.

Individuals who purchase healthcare on their own experience the same frustration as Steve.  The exchange will help them too.  Customers in the exchange will have an account they will log into that will include any subsidies that they are receiving to purchase healthcare (including tax credits).  Then they’ll be able to easily compare plans based on objective measures of quality and cost, selecting the plan that works best for them.

The exchange is a critical innovation in the health insurance market.  Combined with the new healtchare delivery reforms included in SB 1581, Oregon is on its way to better health, better health care and more stable costs.  However, significant work remains in executing these new reforms, and there are many more steps Oregon needs to take in the coming years.  Health reform is a marathon not a sprint.  Even so, Oregon is way ahead of the pack because of the two bills that passed this year.

Watch the video of the bill signing ceremony, including remarks from Governor Kitzhaber, Steve Ferree, Representative Mitch Greenlick, and Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson.