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Republicans Delay Vote on Oregon Health Exchange Bill

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republicans put the brakes on a second of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s health initiatives Monday, delaying a vote on a bill that would create an insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses.

Democrats accused the GOP of playing politics with a bill that has broad support and is likely to eventually pass — a bid, Democrats say, to use the measure as a bargaining chip that can be traded for help with achieving Republican priorities.

Republicans in the state House, with the support of Rep. Mike Schaufler, a Democrat, narrowly voted to send the measure to the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the budget. Republicans dismiss allegations of political maneuvering, saying they support the bill but want to double check to ensure it won’t hurt the budget.

The move in the House follows similar maneuvering in the Senate, where one Democratic senator has joined all 14 Republicans to hold up another exchange bill. Those lawmakers say they want limits on medical malpractice judgments.

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) calls for states to set up one or more exchanges that will help individuals and small businesses use new federal tax subsidies to buy health coverage. In states that have no exchanges, the federal government is supposed to provide exchange services.

The federal government is supposed to pay for exchange startup costs, and the plan is for the exchanges to sustain themselves with user fees and advertising revenue once they are operational.

House co-Speaker Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, Ore., said Republicans want to be sure there’s no gap between the expiration of the federal money and the time the Oregon exchange can be self-sufficient.

“We need to move this bill forward, but there are a few things that need to be addressed,” Hanna said.

Democrats rejected that argument, noting that the House exchange bill passed out of a committee with unanimous, bipartisan support.

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