Editorial: More hubris in health reform

Published Dec 20, 2013 at 12:01AM

Oregon’s health care circus that brought you the embarrassment and disaster of Cover Oregon is already dreaming up the next round of reform.

It’s more can-do attitude from a state government that has proven it can’t do.

The next experiment to be inflicted on Oregonians is ramping up state control of health care.

The Oregon Health Policy Board has shipped off the plan to Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Back in happier days, Kitzhaber told the board in June he wanted more ideas to lower costs, improve care and expand access to care. Specifically, he wanted to find ways to mitigate cost shifting, decrease health premiums and give health care more transparency and accountability.

Those are things almost every Oregonian wants.

The board’s plan has three big recommendations. One is to require more public reporting of health care utilization, cost, quality and health equity. That information could create a better marketplace for consumers and give health care professionals better tools to figure out what works.

The second is to have the state government flex its regulatory muscle to control costs. It is developing a “sustainable rate of growth” for health care costs. It would presumably also need the power to forbid or punish those who transgress as it already does with health insurance rates.

And the third recommendation is to expand and improve primary and chronic care. One example the board looked at is Rhode Island, which mandates that insurers spend more on primary care. That comes at the expense of specialized care.

These fresh reform novelties are a welcome roost for the state officials ashamed of Cover Oregon’s failure. They blame the problems on somebody else. They tingle at another chance to improve health care.

What could possibly go wrong?

But just try singing that song to someone whose family will not have promised health insurance come Jan. 1.

Oregonians need less hubris from their dreamy reformers.