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Grant program for Oregon community groups helping people enroll in insurance will continue without cuts; Oregon not affected by federal government decision to cut national grant program - 07/11/18

(Salem) – Tuesday’s announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealing they will cut Navigator funding by more than 70 percent does not affect Oregon. Enrollment assistance in Oregon is provided locally, funded locally, and continues to be essential for the Marketplace to support.

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, offers competitive grants to community groups and local insurance agents that help people enroll in health coverage and financial assistance. These state programs remain strong, as the federal government slashes support for a similar “Navigator” programs in other states.

Although Oregonians enroll through the national website HealthCare.gov, the state administers outreach and enrollment assistance here.

In Oregon, six community organizations have current grant awards totaling $370,135, and 32 licensed insurance agents have been granted $290,000 in total this year. No cuts are planned for 2019.

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The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace is the state-level partner to HealthCare.gov and a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). DCBS is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to dcbs.oregon.gov.

Prevent heat illness for workers in hot weather - 07/09/18

(Salem) – As summer temperatures rise, so do the dangers of working in high heat. That’s especially true in Oregon, where workers tend to be used to working in mild weather and are frequently not accustomed to high temperatures.

As a result, Oregon OSHA encourages employers and workers in construction, agriculture, and other labor-intensive activities to learn the signs of heat illness and focus on prevention.

“Prevention really comes down to taking several important precautions,” said Penny Wolf-McCormick, health enforcement manager for Oregon OSHA. “They include regularly providing water, rest, and shade; gradually adapting workers to hot environments; and training employees to recognize signs of trouble and to speak up about them.”

Exposure to heat can lead to headaches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, and even seizures or death. From 2012 to 2017, 37 people received benefits through Oregon’s workers’ compensation system for heat-related illnesses.

The call to address the hazards of working in high heat is part of a larger effort aimed at preventing heat-related illness. Under an emphasis program run by Oregon OSHA, the agency’s enforcement and consultation activities will include a review of employers’ plans to deal with heat exposure, especially from June 15 through Oct. 1 of each year.

The prevention program applies to both outdoor job sites and indoor workplaces where potential heat-related hazards may exist. Oregon OSHA encourages employers to fill out a heat illness prevention plan. The plan outlines everything from risk factors and precautionary steps to locations of water and cooling areas.

Employers can get a sample heat illness prevention plan at http://osha.oregon.gov/OSHAPubs/pubform/heat-sample-program.pdf

Here are some tips for preventing a heat-related illness:

  • Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
  • Use the buddy system (work in pairs) to monitor the heat.
  • Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15 to 20 minutes).
  • Wear light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing (such as cotton).
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas – allow your body to cool down.
  • Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).
     

To help those suffering from heat exhaustion:

  • Move them to a cool, shaded area. Do not leave them alone.
  • Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
  • Provide cool water to drink (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are not feeling sick to their stomach.
  • Try to cool them by fanning them. Cool the skin with a spray mist of cold water or a wet cloth.
  • If they do not feel better in a few minutes, call 911 for emergency help.

Employers can calculate the heat index for their worksite with the federal OSHA heat stress app for mobile phones: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.

Oregon OSHA also offers heat stress prevention videos in English, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EixCKduq-Dwtktktk, and Spanish,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3LmXddBh_8.

Get more information about heat stress and prevention of heat-related illnesses: http://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/topics/heat-stress.aspx.

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit www.osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

 

Workplace safety, health training grants available - 07/06/18

(Salem) – Oregon OSHA is accepting grant applications for the development of innovative workplace safety and health training programs. Applications are due Friday, Oct. 5.

The agency, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, encourages unique projects such as mobile apps, videos, or online educational games to engage workers.

The training grants will focus on programs that target a high-hazard Oregon industry, such as construction or agriculture, or a specific work process to reduce or eliminate hazards. Any employer, labor group, school affiliated with a labor group, or nonprofit organization may apply. Applicants may request up to $40,000 per grant project.

Employers are not allowed to use grants to pay for training for their employees. Materials produced by grant recipients become the property of Oregon OSHA. Many of the materials are housed in the Oregon OSHA Resource Center and are available for use by the public. Some materials are available electronically.

Some examples of past grant projects include:

  • Spanish-language flip charts designed to help prevent heat-related illness among forest workers
  • Safe design guidelines for anchoring systems used as part of logging operations
  • An educational program for nurses to prevent ergonomic-related injuries

The Oregon Legislature launched the Occupational Safety and Health Education and Training Grant Program in 1990. Award recommendations are made by Oregon OSHA’s Safe Employment Education and Training Advisory Committee, a group with members from business, labor, and government.

Grant application information is available at http://osha.oregon.gov/edu/grants/Pages/default.aspx. For more information, contact Teri Watson at 503-947-7406 or i.a.watson@oregon.gov">teri.a.watson@oregon.gov.

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit www.osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

 

Oregon OSHA adds protections against risk of pesticide drift - 07/02/18

(Salem) – Oregon OSHA has adopted rules that increase protections against the risk of pesticides drifting off their mark when spraying occurs outdoors. The rules, which exceed federal requirements, will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The rules expand a protective zone; extend the evacuation period; require doors, windows, and air intakes to be closed during pesticide applications; and require storage for shoes and boots to prevent tracking of pesticides into worker housing.

Pesticide drift outside a treated area is already illegal. However, Oregon OSHA’s rules further address the risk by adding safeguards for workers and their families who rely on farm housing. The rules are part of a broader and ongoing effort to reduce incidents of unsafe pesticide exposure among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.

“Putting these rules into action means workers and their families are better protected in Oregon than they are in the vast majority of the country,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “These rules are the result of a lot of hard work by stakeholders and plenty of thoughtful public comments about the right approach to a challenging issue.”

At issue is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ). The zone is adjacent to – but outside of – the pesticide-treated area. It provides an added level of protection beyond the safeguards enforced with respect to the treated area itself. The AEZ  surrounds and moves with spray equipment and must be free of all people other than appropriately trained and equipped pesticide handlers.

The EPA’s rule requires people to move 100 feet away from an area being treated with pesticides. However, it was designed for workers in the field. It did not account for the interaction of the AEZ with worker housing and other agricultural structures. The EPA rule also allows people to return to the zone immediately after the spray equipment has passed by.

By contrast, Oregon OSHA’s rules require a 100-foot AEZ when the pesticide applicator is not required to use a respirator. Moreover, people must stay out of the zone for an additional 15 minutes, either by staying indoors or remaining evacuated. This recognizes that illegal drift may occur and allows any pesticide drift to settle.

Oregon OSHA’s rules exceed those of the EPA in other ways, including:

  • For pesticides that require applicators to use respirators, the AEZ expands to 150 feet – 50 feet more than the EPA rule. People must stay out of the zone for an additional 15 minutes. There is no option to stay indoors.
  • For all pesticide applications, doors and windows must be shut, and air intakes must be turned off before people evacuate or remain inside an enclosed agricultural structure. During evacuation, the EPA rule does not include such requirements.
  • Closeable storage areas for shoes or boots must be provided to prevent tracking of pesticides into worker housing. The EPA rule includes no such requirements.
  • Employers must adhere to notification and instruction requirements, including informing people of the start and stop times of pesticide spray, and providing them with instructions to close windows, doors, and air intakes. The EPA rule includes no such provisions.

Oregon OSHA’s newly adopted rules complement – and complete – revisions the agency made last year to the EPA Worker Protection Standard. Last year’s changes affected areas such as worker notifications, frequency of training, and trainer qualifications. Changes made by the EPA that were already in effect in Oregon include respiratory protection, hazard communication, and emergency eye-washing requirements.

Oregon OSHA’s updates to the Worker Protection Standard grew out of a transparent decision-making process. That process included public hearings, an examination of all written and verbal comments, an advisory committee, and a financial impact analysis conducted by a committee of both grower and worker representatives. 

Learn more about the adopted rule and related information about the Worker Protection Standard: https://osha.oregon.gov/news/notices/Pages/AEZ-WPS.aspx

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit www.osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

 

Preliminary rate decisions for 2019 health plans released - 06/29/18

Salem – Oregonians can now see the state’s preliminary rate decisions for 2019 individual and small employer health insurance plans. The Division of Financial Regulation must review and approve any rates before they can be charged to policyholders.

Preliminary rate decisions are for small businesses and individuals who buy their own coverage rather than getting it through an employer.

In the individual market, the division has issued preliminary decisions for seven companies with average rate changes ranging from a 9.6 percent decrease to a 10.6 percent increase. Under the preliminary decisions, Silver Standard Plan premiums for a 40-year-old in Portland would range from $414 to $486 a month.

“Although rates are still rising for many consumers, the Oregon Reinsurance Program is continuing to provide some stability and relief,” Insurance Commissioner Andrew Stolfi said. “Without this program, Oregonians who buy their own insurance would see much larger rate increases. Actions taken at the federal level have injected instability into the market and resulted in rate increases, and we are committed to protecting Oregonians’ access to affordable, comprehensive coverage.”

In the small group market, the division has reviewed each of company’s rate request and plans to approve the rates as filed. The average rate increases range from 4 percent decrease to a 9.4 percent increase. Under the preliminary decisions, Silver Standard Plan premiums for a 40-year-old in Portland would range from $295 to $387 a month.

See the chart at https://dfr.oregon.gov/healthrates/Documents/2019-pre-prop-rates.pdf for the full list of preliminary decisions.

Reasons for the rate changes include:

  • The new Oregon Reinsurance Program, which reduced individual market rates by 6.3 percent for 2019.
  • Uncertainty in the individual market due to factors such as the reduction of the individual mandate penalty to $0 and federal rules around association health plans and short-term/limited-duration plans.
  • Medical costs continue to rise, driven by increased use and the cost of new specialized prescription drugs.

These preliminary decisions will undergo continued review and discussion through public hearings being held in Salem and streamed online July 9-11. The public comment period also will remain open through Wednesday, July 11. There will be a dedicated public comment period during each public rate hearing. For a schedule of hearings and to submit comments online, visit www.oregonhealthrates.org.

Final decisions are expected to be announced Friday, July 20.

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About DCBS: The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov. 

About Oregon DFR:

The Division of Financial Regulation is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov and http://dfr.oregon.gov.

Mental health and your insurance free event - 06/26/18

Salem – A recent study revealed that suicides are on a 28.2 percent rise in Oregon. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s data reveals, many Oregon families are not getting the mental health and substance use treatment they desperately need.

To help Oregonians understand how mental health is covered by their insurance, the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation is hosting a Facebook Live event on Thursday June 28 at 6 p.m. 

Experts from the following departments will discuss how nearly every type of health insurance plan covers mental and substance use treatment, and the health insurance appeals process.

  • U.S. Department and Labor will discuss large employer/self funded insurance plans
  • Oregon Division of Financial Regulation will talk about small group and individual health insurance
  • Oregon Senior Health Insurance Benefit Assistance will review Medicare
  • Oregon Health Authority will discuss Medicaid/Oregon Health Plan

Wait times and claim denials are common for families needing mental health specialists to address issues such as eating disorders, substance use, depression, and autism. The good news is that laws are in place to help consumers get access to mental healthcare, and navigate the appeals process if they are unfairly denied.
Please tune in to Facebook for this free live event on June*

28, to learn how to get coverage for the mental healthcare you need.

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**Reporters, if you would like to attend the event and speak with the presenters please contact Brad Hilliard for more details.**

About Oregon DFR:

The Division of Financial Regulation is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov and http://dfr.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx.