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Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announces how federal dollars will help Coordinated Care Organizations give better health care at lower costs


More than 150 people — business men and women, lawmakers, county public health providers, hospital workers and university students — filled a room at Central City Concern in Portland today to hear Governor John Kitzhaber explain how Oregonians are on the road to better health and better care at a more sustainable cost.

Gov. Kitzhaber discussed the state's agreement with the Obama Administration to support Oregon's transformed Medicaid system to bring better health at a more sustainable cost, saving a projected $11 billion in state and federal Medicaid spending over the next decade.

The agreement is tied to a waiver request Oregon submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in March that will give the state both the flexibility and upfront investments to support the work that will be done through new Coordinated Care Organizations. Through the agreement, Oregon's Medicaid program will receive $1.9 billion for health care transformation.

This week also marked a second milestone for Oregon's health system transformation, Kitzhaber said. Fourteen Oregon-based groups submitted the first part of the application to become a CCO by the April 30 deadline. If all are approved, it would mean that more than 90 percent of Oregon Health Plan clients would have access to care through a CCO. By transforming health care delivery, Oregon stands to save $11 billion during the next decade.

Members of Oregon's U.S. Congressional delegation, state legislators and key businesses leaders also spoke at the event.

"To make health care more affordable we have to use new strategies," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley. "This is going to make a huge difference in how we deliver health care in Oregon."

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader said that this week's announcements of the CCOs and the federal approval of the funding are going to "make health care really work for you, as an Oregonian."

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici said, "Today is an exciting day for Oregon. All eyes are on Oregon." Bonamici was referring to the fact that Oregon is an innovator in working to reduce Medicaid's increasing costs, while at the same time improving patient care.

State Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson said, "This is the right direction to go."

George Brown, M.D., Legacy Health chief executive officer and part of the Tri-County CCO collaborative, said that the federal dollars will be used to create the infrastructure to deliver a better system of health care.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick summed up the events of this history-making week: "The best way to predict the future is to create it. Now we are on a road to a much better future."

The Governor had just returned from a history-making Washington, D.C., trip where Oregon was given a preliminary agreement for $1.9 billion over five years to transform the way health care is delivered in the state Medicaid program.

"This is a defining moment for the state of Oregon. We are poised to demonstrate that keeping people healthy on the front end can save us costs down the road," Kitzhaber said.

The initial investment of $620 million will allow Oregon's newly forming Coordinated Care Organizations to better deliver coordinated, high-quality physical, mental and dental care to the Oregon Health Plan's 600,000 clients. The first CCOs are expected to be operational by August 2012.