5 Things Oregon: Universal access, Jennifer Johnstun, Dolly Matteucci

I grew up in Bend. I can’t tell you when a wildfire will hit. But, I can tell you when I see all of the ingredients of a tinder box in our forests. Then, it’s only a matter of time before a lightning storm rolls through and you have to wonder if you’ll have to evacuate your home.

I can’t tell you when the wildfire is coming to health care.  But, I can tell you that I think I see some of the ingredients of a tinder box in our health politics. And, in this edition of 5 Things We’re Watching, we speak to some of them.

1.  Amazon shines light on the poor opinion of health care

In September, I outlined a strategy for Amazon to enter the health care space. It starts with leveraging their own employees, which appears to be the focus of their recent news. What has also gained focus is how the Amazon release characterized the health care sector. Warren Buffett called health care a “tapeworm.”  I thought that was a brazen term, but apparently it wasn’t.

Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence Health and Services, agreed with the term.  The former editor of Modern Health care (kind of) defended the sector saying, to paraphrase, ‘no, it’s a cancer not a tapeworm.” A piece in Time called health care “the flabbiest part of the US economy” and “the Gorgon that has stymied politicians for decades.” Kaiser Health News posted a letter saying health care is a “catastrophic failure.” Piers Morgan, one I am generally loathe to quote about anything, said health care was “a sick joke & the envy of no one.”

Put it all together:  there is not another sector in the US economy as openly ridiculed and derided as the one upon which we will all one day depend, and from which we will all receive services that few of us can afford on our own. That’s the stuff of a strong political backlash ahead.

2. Universal access closer to the ballot

Oregon is one step closer to achieving universal access to health care services, according to the Oregon Nurses Association. The HOPE Amendment, which would allow voters to vote on amending the Constitution to make “access to cost-effective, medially appropriate and affordable health care” a state obligation, passed out of the House this week. No Republicans supported the language, either from the House floor or when the resolution passed out of committee. It now heads to the Democratic controlled Senate.  Senator DeBoer has expressed concerns over future litigation if the amendment is implemented, citing Washington State’s McCleary decision as analogous to Oregon’s future liability.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is how forceful – and, so far, successful – ONA has been on this. My guess is the reason is their new Executive Director, Martin Taylor.  Taylor is smart, political savvy and very strategic.  He knows how to pull the levers of a public affairs campaign.  And this new activism by ONA is a sign that Taylor will be an increasing force in Oregon health policy in the years ahead.

3.  Video: Jennifer Johnstun

Jennifer Johnstun is the Health Strategy Officer at PrimaryHealth of Josephine County. She joined us for this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss implementing ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) research. Johnstun also discusses one particular project she is working on to help bring awareness of ACEs into the school setting.

“I think one great example of what we’re doing is with school districts. One particular project called the “CLEAR project” is a program where teachers receive ongoing education about ACEs but they also receive mentoring and coaching on how to work and implement that in the school in their individual teaching as well as an actual organization. And we’ve seen in our first year of CLEAR, which was rolled out in one elementary school, that they were able to really demonstrate a decrease in discipline referrals in that school, and now that’s rolled out to five elementary schools in the same district this year.”

4.  1994 and the 2nd congressional

In 1994, as then-Speaker of the US House Tom Foley was running for re-election, internal polling had him up by 18 points over the summer. A bruising primary on the Republican side left his opponent, attorney George Nethercutt, weakened. Following Labor Day, House Republicans – taking advantage of a national wave – released the Contract with America in Reader’s Digest.  Six weeks later, Foley became the first incumbent speaker to lose re-election since 1860 despite vastly outspending his opponent. The House Republicans swept into a majority for the first time since 1955.

In February, 1994, it was hard to see how Republicans could knock off a long time incumbent that had consistently delivered for his district and had, generally speaking, bi-partisan support.  But, there was a deeply unpopular president and a good but shaky economy. A national tide took over.

Campaign reports were just filed for candidates running in the 2nd Congressional district.  Incumbent Greg Walden has raised $3m for re-election with about $2m cash on hand.  The most any Democratic challenger has raised is $70,567 from Jaime McLeod-Skinner.

In February, 2018, it is hard to see how Democrats could knock off a long time incumbent that has consistently delivered for his district and had, generally speaking, bi-partisan support.


5.  Matteucci to lead Oregon State Hospital: ‘not the OR way’

Dolly Matteucci has been named was the new superintendent of Oregon State Hospital, starting next month. Matteucci comes from Napa State Hospital in California, where she’s served as executive director since 2010. Only 17 percent of patients at Napa State are civil commitments, with the remaining 83 percent of patients coming through the criminal justice system.

Senator Sara Gelser tweeted and later deleted her concern over Matteucci’s hiring, saying that her approach and culture was “not the OR way.” Sen. Gelser later retweeted Bob Joondeph’s approval of her concern. The next day she tweeted a story about a patient death at Napa State Hospital, criticizing the criminalization of mental health treatment.