09-23-2021  3:04 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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The Skanner News

The Oregon Health Authority has ambitious reform plans, and Monday night Portlanders can hear about them and weigh in.

The meeting is Monday, Oct. 10, from 6-8 p.m. at the University Place Hotel & Conference Center, 310 S.W. Lincoln St.

The health agency, together with the Oregon Health Policy Board, is winding down a tour of eight meetings across Oregon, and spokeswoman Patty Wentz, at left, says there are new ideas on the table.

"As we now are well aware health care costs are skyrocketing out of control, whether that's for businesses or families, or for the state," she says. "The meetings are designed to educate residents about the new vision for the Oregon Health Plan established by bipartisan legislation passed earlier this year."

Wentz says traditionally when the state has a revenue problem with its health care coverage, the state has three choices: they cut people from care; they reduce services, or they reduce provider rates.

"That's not working anymore," Wentz says. "The costs are too high we can't cut deep enough in those ways in order to keep the system sustainable."

Wentz says there have been some service reductions, but staff has come up with a different way of approaching this problem – looking at how to redesign the health care system to be more efficient, and bring both better care and lower costs.

"The governor and the legislature made a commitment to not cut anyone from care with the current revenue situation, no one is being removed from the Oregon Health Plan," Wentz says.

This year state lawmakers passed House Bill 3650, which mandates that the Oregon Health Plan must be refigured to "bring better care, better management of chronic illness, more preventive care, more health equity and reduced waste and inefficiency."

The legislation created local Coordinated Care Organizations to administer the delivery of physical, mental, addictions, oral and other health care to the more than 600,000 child and adult Oregonians served by the Oregon Health Plan.

"They would manage the health of the patient with one global budget, and locally they would decide how to best allocate those resources," Wentz says.

"With the Oregon Health Plan approximately 40 percent of our clients are also facing mental health issues but they have to deal with two separate systems, a mental health system and a physical health system -- they have to figure out how to coordinate that."

She adds that there is consensus on the fact that here are a lot of areas where the system isn't as effective or efficient as it could be.

"This high administrative burden in health care, there's not enough focus on prevention – because in our current system there's no incentive to focus on prevention, it's not how you get paid, you get paid for office visits," she says.

Wentz says there can be better management of chronic illness, which generates a lot of Oregon's health care bills.

"Eighty percent of our costs come from 20 percent of the patients and a lot of that is because of chronic care conditions that can be managed in a better way," Wentz says.

Monday's meeting will be followed by the final two in the tour: Eugene, Wednesday, Oct. 12; and Astoria on Thursday.

Local residents, health care professionals and businesses are urged to attend to help shape the proposed creation of CCOs in their community. Also at each meeting will be local innovators who have already begun the type of care coordination that would happen under the new organizations.

As required by HB 3650, a final proposal for such organizations will be delivered to the February 2012 Legislature by the Oregon Health Policy Board. Pending approval, the first CCO would launch in 2012.

If you are unable to attend a community meeting, you can offer feedback at www.health.oregon.gov .

For special accommodations, assistive hearing devices, sign language interpreters or large-print materials, please contact Ari Ettinger at the Oregon Health Authority at [email protected] or call 503-947-2340 or 877-398-9238 at least 48 hours before the meeting.

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