Oregon Senate backs Kitzhaber health overhaul

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- The Oregon Senate has approved Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposal to redesign Oregon's health care system beginning with the Oregon Health Plan.

The vote came after Democratic Sen. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose dropped her objection, providing the 16th vote it needed to pass. Johnson had joined all 14 Senate Republicans in a pledge to block the measure unless it included liability limits in medical malpractice cases.

Kitzhaber and Senate Democrats oppose that provision, saying the issue is complex and should be studied in more detail. The bill will create a task force to study the issue.

The governor wants to overhaul the health care system to improve coordination of care and reduce hospital stays. He says it would lead to healthier patients and lower costs.