Changes at OHA? | US Senate Finance Committee | “What They’re Watching”

This time of year always feels like the calm before the storm.  Things are slowing down from elections.  New majorities have yet to be installed in governing bodies.  Corporate budgets have often yet to be approved.

But the storm is coming, and it feels like many folks see the business and energy coming.  They are some of the 5 Things We’re Watching this month in Oregon healthcare.

1. Cover Oregon is “better, but not well”

Health care providers differentiate between a diseased patient who is improving, and one that is not yet exhibiting wellness.  Such is the state of Cover Oregon this year.  Through the first few days of open enrollment, things are moving relatively smoothly.  Compared to how things are going in Washington State, healthcare.gov is beginning to appear more reliable.

However, the legislative will to close Cover Oregon seems to be galvanizing ahead of the session.  Speaker Kotek and Senate President Courtney announced yesterday a “joint legislative committee to take steps toward shutting down the troubled public corporation known as Cover Oregon.”

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2. VIDEO: “What They’re Thinking”:  Jeff Heatherington

What are the data points and trends health care leaders are keeping their eye on? What are the big questions which they’re looking for answers to?

You hear from us every month. We thought maybe you’d want to hear from someone else from time to time. So, we have started asking folks who attend our conference about what they’re watching. We get them on camera, and edit the best of their thinking down to about 90 seconds.

In our first Oregon edition of “What They’re Watching,” FamilyCare CEO Jeff Heatherington talks about challenges facing Medicaid plans.

3. US Senate Finance Comm. may become health policy hub

With Obama unlikely to throw out his signature health care legislation, and the US House unable to produce anything substantive on health policy, that leaves the Senate Finance Committee as the most likely center of constructive health policy debate.  Unfortunately for Oregon, the new Republican majority means Sen. Wyden will step down as chair and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah will likely take over.

In 2016, the Senate Republicans hold 24 of the 34 seats up for re-election – almost half of their entire conference of 53 members.  So, they should be particularly interested in the topic.   We know the Senate is committed to repealing ObamaCare (despite some mixed comments before the election).  Will they also produce something substantive as a replacement of ObamaCare?  It’s in everyone’s interest, we think, for the dialog to deepen.

4. Will there be a change at OHA for the next term?

The changeover at OHA in the last year has been extensive.  Bruce Goldberg left to run the Exchange.  Tina Edlund then left to take over the transition to the federal model.  Suzanne Hoffman ably filled the leadership role during the tumult of a campaign season when Gov. Kitzhaber may not have felt like another change in leadership was the right move.

But, now that Gov. Kitzhaber is through the election, it may be that he wants to revisit the composition of his senior health leadership team for the next four years.  We have no insight there, other than it’s a common practice heading into a second term for a governor to reshape his cabinet.  With some of the challenges of funding Medicaid looming in the next four years, the work ahead is considerable.  Gov. Kitzhaber will want to make sure his team is the right one to get through it with him.

5. Call this the “know when to move on” lesson of the month

I know elections are hard, and losing them is even harder.  One goes from visions of national relevance to visions of unemployment in a matter of hours.  However, this example of Monica Wehby calling Gov. Kitzhaber is perhaps the most glaring example I’ve seen in some time of not being able to let go of “what could have been.”
From the story:  “According to multiple sources, she asked about a job opening: director of the Oregon Health Authority.”  It’s more than a bit of a stretch to go from national prominence as an anti-ACA figure to wanting to be the chief health policy lieutenant to a nationally prominent pro-ACA figure.  You may be a great public servant one day, Dr. Wehby, but the OHA probably isn’t the best fit for you.