Contact: Thomas Hottman
Challenges facing the Oregon Health Plan in 2017 and ensuring health care coverage for children and adults were key talking points for Gov. Kate Brown as she met with a roundtable of physicians at Cascades East Family Medicine in Klamath Falls Tuesday.
“We are facing a shortfall in funding for the Oregon Health Plan,” Gov. Brown said. “So it’s sort of two-fold; We want to make sure that legislators support increased budgets for loan repayment programs for medical providers in Oregon but also figuring out how we fill the gaps. So our budget shortfall would require us to cut probably 355,000 Oregonians off the Oregon Health Plan, basically everybody we’ve added in the last couple of years.”
Gov. Brown said the state is at 95 percent of offering health care for adults and 98 percent of offering health care to children statewide.
We don’t want to go backwards, at least I don’t,” Gov. Brown said. “I’m sure you don’t want to go back to the days where the emergency room was the primary care provider.
Dr. Joyce Hollander-Rodriguez, program director of Cascades East Family Medicine, which serves as a regional hub for training medical residents.
“Almost half of our primary care physicians in the Klamath area are graduates of this program,” said Hollander-Rodriguez. “As folks are aging and retiring, we need a workforce to fill that in.”
At least one-third of Klamath Falls residents are on Medicare, and 50 percent of patients are on Medicaid, according to Hollander-Rodriguez.
“One of the things that’s real important to us is trying to find ways to keep doing that work with the innovations that we’ve done,” Hollander-Rodriguez said.
“The more dollars we put in to primary care, the more we save money downstream, and so we’re really hoping that we can protect some of that work and be an example for the rest of the country.”
Gov. Brown agreed, and referred to the challenges of quantifying savings from investing in primary care.
“I’m not sure in terms of preventative care that we’ve really figured out ways to calculate and put numbers on the savings in terms of primary preventative care,” Gov. Brown said.
“I’m actually very excited for the opportunities for medical students to have time in rural Oregon,” Brown added. “I think it will transform health care in our rural communities, but I think it will also make for great lives for people, too. It’s really a win-win on many different levels.”
Reaching a diagnosis
Laudert shared an example of an OHP patient she has seen who needed extensive primary care to finally reach a diagnosis.
“I can’t help but imagine what it had been like had she not had insurance, her only source of access would have been the ER,” Laudert said, adding that her patient has now found a job.”
“I think it’s so important to have voices like yours come to the Legislature and talk about programs that make it easier for providers to be practicing in rural Oregon,” Gov. Brown said.
“Our focus this legislative session will be that every child has coverage,” Gov. Brown added. “Then we will work to make sure every adult has coverage.”
Practicing rural medicine
Dallas Swenson, an intern of Oregon Health & Sciences University, is in the first year of a three-year rotation with plans to practice family medicine.
“I’ll practice in rural Oregon somewhere,” Swenson said.
“This program is training people to be able to practice in rural areas.”