As State of Reform continues to expand and grow, we’re excited to announce that we’ve hired a new full time reporter to cover the intersection of health care and health policy in Oregon. Shane Ersland comes to State of Reform with over 10 years of journalism experience, having most recently worked as an editor at the Yakima Valley Business Times in Washington State.
You can reach out to Shane with tips and story ideas here!
State of Reform
1. Rep. Dexter discusses rollout of community information exchange bill
Rep. Maxine Dexter discussed plans for rolling out HB 4150—which requires stakeholders to study and make recommendations on the implementation of statewide community information exchanges—at a recent meeting with the Health Information Technology Oversight Council. Dexter said the bill aims to provide high-quality health care for Oregonians by allowing service providers to share crucial information.
“This is a fundamental part of my vision for a health care system that is equitable and sustainable,” said Dexter. “To be successful, we need to break down barriers.” A draft of the group’s findings and recommendations are due to the legislature on September 15th, 2022, with the final report due on January 31st, 2023.
2. Q&A: OAHHS CEO discusses workforce shortage
In an interview with State of Reform on Wednesday, OAHHS President & CEO Becky Hultberg discussed Oregon’s health care workforce shortage and the efforts the health care sector can pursue to attract more workers to the industry. One key factor for retention, says Hultberg, is the prioritization of culture.
“While pay is always important, of course, what employees want is a culture where they feel valued, respected, and included …That helps with retention of current staff, but until we add more workers to the available pool, recruiting will continue to be a challenge.” Hultberg also discussed legislative efforts related to streamlining licensing, creating apprenticeship programs, and joining interstate provider compacts.
3. Members named to Bridge Program Task Force
OHA announced on Monday that Gov. Brown had appointed 13 members to the Bridge Program Task Force, which was put in place through HB 4035 during this year’s legislative session. The task force is charged with developing a bridge program to provide health coverage for those who may lose Medicaid coverage following the redetermination process at the end of the federal public health emergency (more on that below).
Among several goals outlined in the bill, the bridge program aims to “create new options for affordable health insurance coverage that allow for continuity of coverage and care for the individuals who regularly enroll and disenroll in the medical assistance program due to frequent fluctuations in income.” The taskforce’s first meeting was scheduled for next week, but was cancelled. The next upcoming meeting is listed as taking place on April 26.
4. National and local surveys highlight youth mental health challenges
Recently released surveys at both the national and state level highlight ongoing youth mental health concerns during the pandemic. A recently released CDC report, which examined behavioral health challenges and risk behaviors among students across the country, found that 44% of high school students said they felt persistently hopeless or sad during the past year. Thirty-seven percent reported they had experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and 55% said they had experienced emotional abuse by an adult at home.
A recent study from OHSU points to an increase in suicide attempts across the country over the past decade—particularly among those 10 to 12 years old who saw a five-fold increase in suicidal overdoses. Recent data finds, however, that Oregon is one of just seven states that saw a decline in suicides in 2020 compared to 2019, with a 14% drop for individuals 24 years and under. Despite these positive findings, Oregon had the 13th highest suicide rate in the country in 2020, and state officials say the rate is on track to increase this year.
5. Details on Biden’s budget and the future of the PHE
State of Reform Columnist Jim Capretta’s recent columns cover topics that are particularly timely and relevant to ongoing state and federal health policy conversations. In this column, he reviews the status of public health emergency declarations and the various flexibilities put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In another column, Capretta dives into the details of the “most significant recommendations” related to health care included in the Biden administration’s updated budget plan. He highlights the funding outlook for pandemic preparedness, the Build Back Better plan, mental health services, and ARPA-H.