5 Things Oregon: Hospital payment report, Convening Panel, Wildfire health impacts


Emily Boerger


It’s an odd time in COVID. Public opinion has turned gloomy, with Gallup reporting that more people are pessimistic about the future of COVID and getting the disease than are optimistic. That’s the first time since January that more folks are worried than hopeful.

Moreover, 1 in 3 vaccinated individuals are now “somewhat” or “very worried” about getting COVID. Thanks for hyping that 0.1% chance, media. Hope it was worth it.

Meanwhile 20% of unvaccinated individuals are “somewhat” or “very worried” about getting COVID. Maybe 80% of unvaccinated folks are a bit overconfident here. But, for those 20% that are worried, there is a vaccine. It will keep you from getting sick, and almost absolutely keep you out of the hospital. You’ll have less worry by getting it — trust me on this.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Report finds significant variation in hospital median prices

OHA’s recently-released Oregon Hospital Payment Report finds 79 of the 115 most common procedures in hospitals saw median price increases in 2019. The report also found significant variation in procedures’ median prices when comparing individual hospitals, including inpatient hip replacements which ranged from $2,875 to $50,993.

In this Q&A, OHA Health Policy and Analytics Division Director Jeremy Vandehey discusses the findings and impacts of the hospital report. “What we see is really significant variation in the price of a procedure depending on what facility somebody goes to. We can easily see a three- or four-fold difference between the same procedure at one facility to another.”


2. Thank you to our Convening Panel

We host the 2021 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference this year on October 26th. This afternoon, however, we kick off our Convening Panel process, which gathers input from some of Oregon’s most thoughtful health care and health policy leaders. Their input helps us shape the Topical Agenda and identify some of the speakers we’ll want to have ready for you in October.

Ahead of our Convening Panel meeting, we’d love to hear your ideas on the topics, speakers, or content ideas that you’d like to see at the event. And, if you already know that you want to be with us on the 26th, be sure to register while Early Bird rates are still in place!

3. Brown’s push to vaccinate health workers

Gov. Kate Brown directed OHA last week to issue a new rule requiring health care professionals to be vaccinated against COVID, or undergo weekly testing. This overturns a statute which prohibits health care employers from mandating vaccination of their employees. Brown intends to address the statute with stakeholders and legislators in the upcoming 2022 legislative session.

Rates of vaccination among Oregon’s health care workforce varies significantly across the state with just 43% having initiated vaccination in Harney County compared to 82% in Benton County, as of July 3 (the most recent data). Rates also vary by profession with the highest vaccination rates seen among dentists (94%), medical doctors (87%), and physician assistants (83%). Some of the lowest rates are among chiropractors (50%) and advanced EMTs (56%).


4. Wildfire impacts on health

The Bootleg Fire is thankfully now 98% contained, but Gabriela Goldfarb, OHA’s Environmental Public Health Section manager, says wildfires and their related health impacts are “the new normal going forward.” According to Goldfarb, Oregon is seeing about a 20% increase in emergency department visits related to respiratory issues and requests for respiratory medications.

Goldfarb says the health impacts related to wildfire smoke are disproportionately felt by lower income and historically marginalized communities who are more likely to have lower quality housing susceptible to wildfire smoke permeation, less flexible employment to stay out of the smoke, more underlying health conditions, and less access to primary health care. Latinx communities in Oregon, for example, are seeing around 30% more individuals in hospital EDs for smoke-related issues than would have been expected, she says.


5. Travel nurses, a new staffing standard?

Matt Calzia, RN, is a nurse practice consultant with the Oregon Nurses Association. He says travel nursing has become a standard in how hospitals staff during the pandemic. Staffing shortages and increased competition for these nurses has resulted in greater costs for hospitals, which, he says, leads to inequities among facilities.

A recent financial performance report from Apprise Heath Insights indicates both urban and rural hospitals are reporting difficulties keeping staff and replacing those leaving their jobs. The report finds total operating expenses have increased for a third consecutive quarter. OAHHS says member hospitals cite increased labor costs as a primary driver of increased total operating expenses.