5 Things Oregon: CCO performance review, Nurses seeking affordable housing, Q&A on Latinx COVID testing


Eli Kirshbaum


My name is Eli Kirshbaum and I’m a Senior Reporter/Editor here at State of Reform. Emily is out on vacation for the next two weeks, so I’m stepping in to write her newsletters while she’s gone. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments during her time off—I’d be happy to connect!

Early Bird registration for the 2022 Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference ends on August 19th, so be sure to register to join us if you haven’t already to take advantage of the discounted price. We’re excited for an excellent event in Portland on October 25th!

Thanks for reading!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform

1. Reviewing the progress of CCOs

Oregon Health & Science University’s final report on the performance of the state’s Coordinated Care Organizations will be released at the end of this year, after they released their interim report last fall. OHSU has found that CCOs have increased per-person Medicaid dental visits by 2.2%, committed substantial funding to addressing the social determinants of health, and more.

OHSU Health Economist K. John McConnell, PhD, leads the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, the entity responsible OHSU’s CCO performance reports. He offered some comments on CCOs’ performance with integrating behavioral and physical health care: “At the time of the report, progress on behavioral health integration looked to have slowed or stalled,” McConnell said. “I believe the state has worked to remedy that, but it may still be an area requiring greater investment, definition, and measurement by the state. ”


2. Q&A: UO professor discusses program that tripled Latinx COVID testing

University of Oregon Professor Leslie Leve and her colleagues recently conducted an outreach program that successfully increased COVID testing among Latinx Oregonians. In this Q&A, Leve discusses why the program was so successful and how its outreach strategy can be replicated in other areas of health care.

The outreach—conducted between Feb. 1st, 2021, and Aug. 31st, 2021—heavily relied on community health workers, or promotores, which Leve credits as as the main driver of the program’s success. “The promotores were bilingual and bicultural, and they had established connections with members of the community. They knew the community and they were seen as trusted individuals. I do not think we would have seen such a positive effect in our study if individuals without the local knowledge and relationships had been doing the outreach.”

3. Oregon nurses in need of affordable housing

In the City of Bend—which had the 4th highest cost of living increase in the US between 2010 and 2020—much-needed nurses are saying their wages aren’t commensurate with ever-increasing housing costs. As Tiffany Simmons, an RN at St. Charles Health’s emergency department, puts it: “We’ve negotiated a cost of living increase, but it’s 3% and that’s not enough … We care for people in this community so there should be no excuse for us not to be able to live here.”

St. Charles had around 600 job openings in June of last year, and Simmons says the facility currently has a 20% vacancy rate for nurses. Oregon Nurses Association Communications Manager Kevin Mealy says the solution is to create local affordable housing options specifically for nurses, citing a 2020 effort in Medford in which 2 hospitals built trailer parks for displaced health care workers to live.


4. Oregon receives first payment of opioid settlement money

Oregon received $25 million on July 31st from the recently resolved national opioid epidemic lawsuit settlement against several large pharmaceutical companies. This represents the first of what will be 18 payments totaling over $270 million going towards the state to fund substance abuse prevention initiatives.

Funds from the settlement will support naloxone distribution, prevention programs, syringe services, and more. Oregon’s new Opioid Settlement, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Board will be responsible for putting these funds to use strategically and expeditiously, according to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

5. Significant health care cost increases fueled by Rx costs

A new report from the Oregon Health Authority shows that health care costs in the state rose 49% between 2013 and 2019, and that this is largely attributable to rising prescription drug costs. During that period, prescription drug costs rose 185% for Medicare patients, 93% for commercially insured Oregonians, and 79% for patients on Medicaid.

These numbers represent higher growth than any other health service category included in the report. “Oregon is taking bold steps to control the rising cost of health care,” the report said. “As the fourth state to establish a health care cost growth target program, Oregon is beginning to shine a light on the key drivers of health care costs and setting the stage to hold both the public and private markets accountable for containing cost growth.”