Notable Oregon Health Authority budget “asks”

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) last week submitted its 3,274-page Agency Request Budget for the 2021-2023 biennium.

According to the budget request’s opening letter from Director Patrick Allen, OHA prioritized budget items that will contribute to the agency’s strategic plan to eliminate health inequity in Oregon over the next 10 years. To accomplish that goal, OHA is requesting $26.3 billion in total funds for the biennium. Of that total amount, $3.8 billion would come from state General Funds (GF).

By comparison, the 2019-2021 legislatively approved budget totaled $23.48 billion including $2.7 billion in General Funds.

 

 

The budget requests fall under three main objectives: “Reduce barriers to health and advance health equity in our communities,” “Improve access and quality of behavioral health services and decrease behavioral health inequities,” and “Reduce health inequities in the healthcare system and realize better care, better health and lower costs.”

 

Reduce barriers to health and advance health equity in our communities:

Under this objective, OHA requests $5.8 million in General Funds for strategic planning development and implementation related to equity and inclusion work.

The agency is also requesting $68.9 million GF to support public health modernization in the state. This includes the implementation of public health programs in state, local, and tribal health public health authorities and communities, along with the creation of mechanisms to increase accountability for health outcomes.

“The groundwork laid through initial investments in public health modernization have been critical to Oregon’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the COVID-19 response has highlighted continued gaps in the public health system, especially the need to apply equity principles across all areas of public health practice,” reads the Agency Request Budget.

The budget request proposes an unspecified increase in the tax on beer, wine, and cider, with the additional revenues being used to address behavioral health and substance use disorder. Another policy option package proposes establishing a “strong statewide licensing system” for tobacco product retailers in order to enforce state tobacco laws.

 

Improve access and quality of behavioral health services and decrease behavioral health inequities:

The request budget includes multiple policy option packages aimed at improving behavioral health services in Oregon. The list includes $99.7 million GF to fund strategies and recommendations developed by the Governor’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council, $11.1 million GF for a children’s mobile response and stabilization program, and $30 million GF to increase Oregon State Hospital service capacity.

 

Reduce health inequities in the healthcare system and realize better care, better health and lower costs:

To achieve this goal, OHA is asking for $12.1 million GF to improve the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) fee-for-service program operations, $1.4 million GF to establish Indian Managed Care Entities to provide critical care coordination services to America Indian/Alaska Native OHP enrollees, and $1.5 million GF to move the Marketplace from DCBS to OHA, “creating greater opportunities for aligned policy and leverage all state health coverage programs to maximize opportunities to achieve better health, better care and lower costs.”

 

Gov. Kate Brown will utilize submitted agency requests to develop her budget proposal which she’ll release at the start of December.