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Governor talks health care with coastal communities

Governor John Kitzhaber

Governor John Kitzhaber met with community leaders in Coos Bay last week to update them on Oregon's progress toward a more effective, affordable health care system and ask for their continued help to get the job done.

"We have the opportunity to do something extraordinary here that no other state has done and something that has eluded the nation for decades," Governor Kitzhaber said in a news conference at the North Bend Medical Center. "That's creating a health care system that actually improves the health of the population at a cost we can afford."

Coos Bay Senator Joanne Verger and Representative Arnie Roblan, co-speaker of the House, joined the Governor along with Dr. Carla McKelvey, a pediatrician and president of the Oregon Medical Association (OMA). Sen. Verger and Rep. Roblan played key roles in the passage of historic health care legislation this year.

Rep. Roblan thanked the Governor for his leadership "from day one" on health care issues and his determination to complete the challenging task. "Just because the legislation got passed," Roblan said, "doesn't mean that it's finished."

Sen. Verger urged Oregonians to remember, at a time of partisan gridlock at the national level, how their Legislature pulled together to pass laws that will help transform health care in Oregon. "We don't have to do things the old way," she said.

Dr. McKelvey said rural communities, where doctors often are in short supply, are used to collaborating to improve access to health care. She pledged that OMA, the state's largest physicians group, would continue working with Governor Kitzhaber toward that goal.

Before the news conference, the Governor met with 20 representatives from every major health care group in the Coos County area, including nurses, doctors, primary care clinics, public health officials, hospitals and insurers.

After outlining plans to improve health and curb costs by emphasizing preventive and timely care of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, the Governor listened to the groups' feedback and answered questions.

The new way of delivering care, built around locally run coordinated care organizations designed to address the most pressing community needs, will focus on "keeping people well and out of the hospital," the Governor said.

"Oregonians are counting on us, and we're not going to let them down," Governor Kitzhaber said. "Why not here, why not now?

"Why not in the state of Oregon?"