5 Things Oregon: Gov. Brown’s leadership, May primary, Art Suchorzewski

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With help from Emily Boerger

1. West Coast enters next phase of COVID planning

After weeks of uncertainty, it seems several states have turned a corner and are moving into the next phase of the COVID response — making plans to reopen their economies.On Monday, Governors Kate Brown, Jay Inslee (WA), and Gavin Newsom (CA) announced a “Western States Pact” to coordinate their efforts as they look to control the virus spread in the weeks and months ahead.

Gov. Brown then held a press conference on Tuesday outlining her specific vision for Oregon where she says, “the best path forward is a cautious one.” Brown says in order to consider loosening social distancing measures and reopening businesses, she’ll need to see a slow down in the growth of new cases, ensure there is adequate PPE, ramp up testing and develop a system for contact tracing, and have a quarantine and isolation strategy for people who test positive in the future.


2. Gov. Brown faces mixed reviews over COVID-19 response

Without a comprehensive federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state governors have taken the lead in determining the best courses of action to mitigate the virus’s spread in their states. While some governors have become national leaders during the public health emergency, others have failed to meet the moment. In our conversations with political insiders and health care leaders in Oregon, it appears Gov. Kate Brown falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.

One political insider characterizes Brown as being “a follower” and criticized her lack of direct, decisive actions. Another says that Brown’s “thoughtful and measured” approach was well-suited to the way COVID-19 spread in Oregon. In a recent public opinion poll of the support of each governor across the US, Brown ranked 44th for her handling of the crisis. We detail the varying viewpoints here.

3.  What to watch in the May primary

Recent turnout for the May primary has varied pretty widely, from 54% in 2016 to 34% in 2018. But this year, with a record number 2.86m registered voters (up 25% over four years ago) and most folks living a slower, more home-centered life, it’s reasonable to think we could see a large voter turnout in May. The highest vote count ever was 1.23m, a record I expect could be smashed this year. We’ll see.

Among races to track in May, I’m interested in the 9th District, running from Coos Bay to Florence. It’s an open seat, but the hardscrabble district is one of the Republicans’ best chances at a pick up in what could be a blistering general election for them. On the other end, Democratic pickups in Deschutes County are likely come fall. The May primary is pretty different from the November general for lots of reasons, but we’ll see if there are any tea leaves to read out of Bend.

4. Video: Art Suchorzewski, FamilyCare Health

Art Suchorzewski is the Director of Government Affairs at FamilyCare Health. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss transparency in Medicaid and interpreting financial data. He argues the state still is not holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to transparency in data in Medicaid.

“There’s really no state that’s really taken up that mantle of transparency within Medicaid, and [looked at] how do we make sure costs are under control and how are they managed within the system? … And our view is that because this is public data, these are public dollars and there should be extra scrutiny over that and how we’re allocating those resources.”


5. CARES Act funding heads to Oregon

At the end of March, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act putting in place a broad range of economic and health-related provisions to provide relief to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those provisions is $100 billion to the “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund” and the expansion of the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program for Medicare providers.

That money is now flowing into the state. Last week, HHS announced $23 million in funding for 30 health centers in Oregon. The department also announced 3,454 hospitals and providers in the state will receive a total of $291 million in funding to support their COVID-19 response efforts. The state has also received $32 million in HUD grants and $140 million in funding for Oregon airports through the CARES Act.