Urgent Care services for patients at Kaiser Permanente at Interstate will be sharply curtailed starting Aug. 1, Kaiser announced last week.
The service – designed for patients who need prompt medical care rather than emergency services — was originally offered 24 hours a day for a $30 co-pay; now it will be available weeknights from 5 p.m. until midnight and on weekends.
Switchboard operators, and a brief postcard mailed out last week to Kaiser members, advise patients to either call the advice nurse for an appointment or go to Kaiser Sunnyside Emergency Room in Clackamas – which charges a co-pay of $100 per visit.
A spokesperson for Kaiser did not return calls by press time.
The voices calling for health care reform in Oregon are getting louder.
Activists at Oregon Action plan to release a report on the issue next week called "Insuring Health or Ensuring Profit? A Snapshot of the Health Insurance Industry in the United States."
Cassandra Garrison of Oregon the report includes a brief analysis of Oregon's private insurance industry.
"The key here about this report is that major health insurance companies and all their subsidies have enjoyed substantial profitability in recent years but have cut services to individuals and employers, and people have become increasingly uncomfortable about the availability of health care," Garrison said.
"It raises a lot of questions about the role of the health insurance system, that people are not getting their needs met and they're paying a lot more for less."
In a separate development, during the first week in July a new national grassroots coalition of citizen organizations throughout Oregon called for universal health care – and announced a multi-million dollar campaign to win it.
Now a report by the Oregon Health Forum indicates the estimated 600,000 Oregonians without health insurance are getting squeezed by the lack of viable health care, and they want common-sense, sustainable solutions from state lawmakers.
"I think that if you look at the elements of the report and how we tried to break down what we heard in the 15 meetings we held across the state, you can see the main points," said Oregon Health Forum Executive Director Carol Robinson. "Responsibility, access, fair financing – coming up with financing that's fair to businesses and that's affordable; the sustainability of any kind of system that the state adopts."
Organizers say forum participants' suggestions fall into four main categories: providing universal access to health care; designing a fair and balanced way of financing a new system; ensuring shared responsibility for it throughout all sectors of society; and guaranteeing the system will be stable and sustainable into the future.
"The participants were especially concerned that any plan not be overreaching to something that would have to be scaled back in other economic times," Robinson said. "People are really worried."
The Healthy O regon Act passed by the state Legislature in 2007 created the Oregon Health Board, which was designed to provide input from the community.
The Health Board is a seven-member, volunteer panel headed by Bill Thorndike of Medford, with the job of creating guidelines for reforming the state's health care system.
The Health Board organized the Oregon Health Forums, which collected input from 14 cities and more than 1,300 individuals to give input to state officials on exactly how to provide a better health care system.
The "Your Oregon, Your Health" meetings were held between May 1 and June 19, spanning the state. Organizers said participants included small business owners, school health care providers, nurses, alternative medicine practitioners, students, and people who don't have any health insurance.
Health Care Now
Dozens of activists in red t-shirts staged a rally July 8 at the Garlington Center to announce a new national campaign for health care reform called Health Care for America Now.
The effort is being organized by 95 national and local groups representing labor, community organizations, doctors, nurses, women, small businesses, faith-based organizations, people of color, netroots activists, and think tanks.
The coalition is backed by an unprecedented war chest of an estimated $40 million. It announced the new campaign at noon rallies in 53 cities around the nation on the same day.
"This new coalition is coming together to draw a line in the sand and say, enough is enough – we need health care and we need it for everybody," said JoAnn Bowman, executive director of Oregon Action.
"I think the demographics piece of that project is important because it's certainly something important, that we're proud of that we were able to bring in almost 1,300 people to talk about something as complex as health care and the personal ways we're being impacted by increasing cost and decreasing access," Robinson said. "In this day and time that's a lot of people to turn out on nice spring evenings."