A few years ago, Oregon was cast as a potential leader in national health care reform. The Washington Post ran an article in 2013 with the tantalizing headline: “Can Oregon save American health care?”
Oregon’s experiments with Medicaid could spread, the article said. “If the state can achieve savings with this population, he (then-Gov. John Kitzhaber) could see using global budgets in the health plans that cover state workers and teachers.”
“The private sector might get on board, too, if it sees proof that quality health care does not have to bankrupt employers.”
There have been some successes, but also frustratingly extravagant failures. The very day it was supposed to go online, the state’s $300 million health exchange Cover Oregon flopped. The state still has not fully cleaned up the mess.
For instance, the state gave Medicaid benefits to more than 37,000 people in the last year who did not qualify, according to a story from The Oregonian. It means that the state awarded $191 million in benefits to people who should not have received that money.
The reason? It took the state years to reprocess people into the state’s new Medicaid system after Cover Oregon failed. A new paper form had to be filled out for every person covered. The state is working on determining eligibility for the more complicated cases. Some 100 temporary workers, as well as 150 employees at the state’s Department of Human Services are trying to get it done before an Aug. 31 deadline assigned by Gov. Kate Brown. And they have been finding that some 45 percent of the people were ineligible.
Instead of grand plans, Oregon needs to get the basics right. State government has shown a frustrating pattern of not being able to use health care dollars well.