5 Things Oregon: COVID uptick, Black leaders in health care, Rep. Marty Wilde

I’m particularly excited to be hosting a unique conversation on Black leadership in US health care this Friday. Among the speakers is Eric Hunter, CEO of CareOregon. It’s a free event, and I feature it for you in item 1 below.

Growing up in Bend, Oregon, didn’t provide me with a lot of experience with diversity. I’ve had to seek it out and learn through the years by listening, recognizing how little I knew meant there was so much good stuff to learn.

If you are like me and never had a teacher who was Black, never had a boss who was Black, or never had a family member who was Black, maybe this conversation on Friday is an opportunity to come listen and learn with me. I’d be really honored to have you join us.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Virtual event: Black leadership in US health care and health policy

This Friday, we host a virtual conversation with three leaders I hold in the highest esteem across our entire nine state footprint. They also happen to be Black. So, on June 19th – also known as Juneteenth – we will hold a discussion of how health care organizations can grapple with the structural racism built into American institutions and what it’s like as a Black leader in US health care.

The panel includes Eric Hunter of CareOregon, Demetria Malloy, MD, of Anthem Medicaid in California, and Rep. Garnet Coleman, a 30-year legislator out of Houston, Texas. It’s a tremendous honor for us to host these three folks in a multi-state conversation. I hope you’ll find time to listen and to get yourself registered to be with us.


2. COVID case update

Oregon was one of just four states to see its number of new COVID cases shoot up by over 50% at the beginning of June. OHA’s latest weekly report states that new cases of COVID for June 1 – June 7 increased by 75% compared to the previous week, while the number of tests reported increased “only slightly.” The percent positive tests increased from 1.9% to 3.0% during this period.

The Institute for Disease Modeling’s latest Oregon report models three different scenarios for what the pandemic will look like in Oregon over the next month. The “pessimistic assumption” scenario predicts 14,000 more cumulative infections by July 3 compared to the most optimistic scenario, and it estimates a relatively high effective reproduction number (Re) of 1.6.

3. Acute mental health impacts on horizon

Outside of Oregon, in Washington State, the Dept. of Health there produced a chilling document about the mental health impacts from COVID. It wasn’t meant for wide distribution, but I think it’s a compelling look at how this COVID pandemic is likely to impact us over time. I’ve never seen something quite like it, so I think it’s worth sharing to our Oregon readers, given the existing mental health challenges facing the state.

The document says we are at the height of the “honeymoon period” right now, with a long decline in well being ahead of approximately the one year anniversary. The document predicts up to 60% of the population will experience some form of depression. About “half of the individuals who experience a behavioral health diagnosis will develop a substance-related disorder.” “Behavioral health symptoms including anxiety, trouble sleeping, stomach aches, and headaches will be consistent in the general population in the summer months of 2020.”

4. Video: Rep. Marty Wilde

Rep. Marty Wilde represents House District 11 which stretches across Lane and Linn Counties. Among several committee appointments, Wilde is a member of the Joint Task Force on Universal Health Care and the House Interim Committee on Water. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss environmental health and public health issues related to water quality. This interview was filmed during the 2019 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference in November.

“I mean it’s funny, you can talk to people and they’ll still remember times when, you know, the Willamette River wasn’t anything you could swim in. And that’s within living memory and we’ve done such good work to clean it up over the past decades, but now we’re really worried about it getting worse.”


5. Wyden calls for investigation into health plans

Sen. Ron Wyden has called on the General Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an investigation into “what is known about the role of behavioral health service organizations that many Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, employer sponsored insurance, and commercial health plans contract with for their coverage of mental health care services.”

In a letter to the GAO, Wyden cites concerns by OHSU that health plans “either deny coverage or refuse adequate payment for critical mental health care.” Wyden further asks the GAO to review “How are federal and state regulators (are) ensuring that health plans are meeting mental health parity requirements.”

OHSU’s effort caught a number of plan partners off guard. That OHSU is working with Oregon’s senior senator to ask the GAO to review, in part and among other topics, how well the state is ensuring mental health parity among Medicaid and commercial plans is quite a shot across the bow. This is particularly true if this is simply a contract dispute in search of “adequate payment.”