5 Things Oregon: Budget deficit, Special session series, Greg Van Pelt

One of the ways we are responding to this COVID crisis is to create interactive virtual conversations that tee up some of the most important issues and challenges in health care today. Next week, we host our first multi-state panel discussion called “5 Slides We’re Discussing,” exploring how Medicaid plans in California and Washignton are addressing COVID. We’ll have our first Oregon-specific “5 Slides” event in June.

These events are free, though as we get our feet underneath us, we may add a small fee to these events over time. 100,000 small businesses have already disappeared. 1m small businesses are expected to evaporate. We’re working hard to change our business model to stay off that list!

Thanks for your support and encouragement for the work we’re doing.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Addressing the looming budget deficit

Ahead of the state revenue forecast on May 20, Gov. Kate Brown announced on Monday a potential reduction of $3 billion for the current budget period due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a “planning exercise,” Brown has directed state agencies to prepared prioritization plans equal to a 17% reduction for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Whether the state will need to implement this level of cuts will be dependent on several factors, most importantly the need for additional federal funding to support state services,” said Brown. “I will continue to work with Oregon’s congressional delegation in calling for more federal support.” The governor, along with other leaders in the Western States Pact, sent a letter to congressional leadership on Monday calling for $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments to preserve services like public health, public safety, and public education.


2. Series: Health policy in the special session

With a special session looming, legislators might start thinking about a post-COVID policy response, in addition to the fiscal issues they’ll need to address. Pre-COVID talking points aren’t enough in the “new normal.” So, in this new series titled “The Special Session,” we explore ideas for a post-COVID health system and how policy makers might support a new model for care. These are “think pieces” to support your creative brainstorming, not our advocacy positions.

Current posts discuss reinsurance, funding and executing a serological study, and reconsidering hospital and community funding models. While we frame this series around the potential upcoming special session, the reality is that any change will take an electoral mandate, strong stakeholdering, and a willingness of advocates to move from “playing defense” to working to shape a “new normal.”

If you want to share your thoughts on what a post-COVID world could look like, scribble them down and send them my way.

3.  Initial unemployment claims top 381,800

Oregon’s latest unemployment numbers show continued weekly declines in initial claims, but a worrying picture overall. The Oregon Employment Dept. has received over 381,800 initial claims for unemployment benefits since COVID-19 began shutting down businesses in the middle of March. During that time, the Department has also processed more than 10,000 applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits for contract, gig, self-employed, and other workers not eligible for regular unemployment benefits.

On top of that, when Congress passed the first tranche of the Paycheck Protection Program, Oregon drew down an amount equal to 29% of eligible payroll. With 852,983 Oregonians employed at small businesses, that means roughly another 247,000 individuals currently have their payroll entirely subsidized by that program. When the first tranche of PPP begins to expire in four weeks, we will likely see another spike in initial jobless claims.

4. Video: Greg Van Pelt

Greg Van Pelt is the President of the Oregon Health Leadership Council, a collaborative organization working to develop solutions to reduce health care cost growth and make health care and insurance more affordable. Van Pelt joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss building out whole system services.

“We have found that a sweet spot for Oregon Health Leadership Council is building out those types of services that support the whole system and that no one can do on their own…It’s our venture into kind of connecting medical care with the social and community services. So, it’s a little bit different and that’s what raises both interest and anxiety.”


5. OHA releases latest COVID weekly report

The Oregon Health Authority released its latest COVID-19 Weekly Report on Tuesday, highlighting the most recent COVID-19 statistics across the state. The updated data builds off OHA’s report from May 5th which was the first to include ZIP code-level data detailing the neighborhoods that have experienced the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The latest report shows increases in new cases and new COVID-related deaths compared to the previous week, but OHA says the new cases are more likely a reflection of increased testing and an increasing number of presumptive infections.The Oregonian/OregonLive took a deep dive into the ZIP code data and created an interactive map to visualize the disease distribution. They note that five counties that are pushing ahead to reopen by Friday are experiencing sudden surges in cases.