The Oregon Health Plan spends some $5 billion of taxpayers’ money each year, though figuring out where and how that money was used can be difficult. Senate Bill 1041, approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kate Brown in late June, is a step toward making spending more transparent, though it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

The new law gives the Oregon Health Authority power to regulate the financial condition of coordinated care organizations around the state, something that had been done only by contract before. The 15 CCOs in Oregon manage health care for Oregon Health Plan clients. The result, lawmakers hope, is more consistency and uniform reporting of financial information by the state’s CCOs and a better process for managing CCOs in financial difficulty. They hope, too, for more transparency.

Unfortunately, if the law’s transparency measures really do improve transparency, it’s difficult to see how.

Yes, there will certainly be more uniformity in how the information is reported. The new law is based on the reporting requirements established for health insurance providers and endorsed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. It will allow consumers to compare the finances of one CCO to another by 2021, something that’s difficult to do now.

Too, the measure will require all CCOs to report annually on “financial distributions by the coordinated care organization to shareholders, equity members, parent companies or any related parties.”

But the new law apparently makes it impossible for the public to find out about complaints made against CCOs in the health authority’s regulation of them, and that’s a serious absence. Moreover, reports on those complaints also will be secret.

At least two members of the House Committee on Health Care recognized how little transparency actually is improving, and they weren’t happy. Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, decried what she called the measure’s “baby steps” toward transparency. Unfortunately, her fellows on the committee failed to get the message.

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