Governor Kitzhaber Says the Health Exchange Will Increase Oregon’s Purchasing Power
October 7, 2011--Fresh off a trip from the nation’s capital where he attended the Medicaid Managed Care Conference, Governor John Kitzhaber dropped in on the Health Insurance Exchange meeting yesterday, telling the board it’s the starting point to transform Oregon’s healthcare system.
“This board has the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the larger transformation of the healthcare delivery system,” Kitzhaber said. “I would remind you that this is not a sprint, but a marathon.”
Leaders from other states are interested in Oregon’s insurance exchange, particularly since it passed the legislature with bipartisan support, which Kitzhaber said, “seems unthinkable in many other parts of the country.”
Kitzhaber reiterated that the rising cost of the healthcare system represents a crisis and attributes that fact to the combination of an aging population and inflationary costs. “One of the most disturbing parts to me is that it’s increasing our national debt,” he said. “[But] no one in our nation’s capital wants to address that.”
What’s happening, he said, are efforts to make “little cuts in discretionary public spending,” which will have a devastating impact on the ability of states to provide human services.
Oregon has an opportunity to make bigger, longer lasting changes with the legislature having taken the first steps to pass the exchange bill (Senate Bill 99) and a measure to transform how people on the Oregon Health Plan receive care (House Bill 3650), he added.
The exchange, by itself, is expected to purchase healthcare for more than 600,000 people on the Oregon Health Plan and another 200,000 state workers, public school and their dependents.
“One of the great issues you will have to tackle,” he told the exchange board, is integrating Medicaid into the exchange.
Liz Baxter, who chairs the board, asked Kitzhaber how Oregon’s attempts at healthcare reform could be hampered with the looming federal deficit, the political gridlock in Washington D.C., and court challenges to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“We have great support with this administration, and deep support within CMS [the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services],” he responded. “Their inclination right now would be to give us whatever flexibility we need.”
Because of the political uncertainty with the presidential election and the fact that Dr. Don Berwick, administrator of CMS, may have to step down in January unless he’s confirmed by the Senate, Kitzhaber said that Oregon needs to get a lot done before next November.
“If we demonstrate that we still have our act together, and that we still have bipartisan support, we can continue on, regardless of the political outcome.”