Oregon Health & Science University President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., sent this message to OHSU employees on Thursday, June 27, 2012.
Today the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision on the Affordable Care Act, largely upholding the law. The ruling will require additional analysis but the most vital outcome is that there is now a mechanism in place for achieving universal coverage.
Coverage for all Americans not only improves outcomes for individuals and communities, it’s absolutely vital to address the growing cost of health care. The first and most important of OHSU’s eight essential principles for reform, adopted in early 2009, is universal access to a defined set of health care benefits. Today is an important victory but, of course, the hard work lies ahead, and OHSU and other academic health centers have a vital role to play.
With more than 30 million newly insured Americans about to enter the health care system, addressing the nation’s provider workforce shortages takes on greater significance than ever. The Collaborative Life Sciences Building will help increase class sizes, as well as foster inter-professional education, but we will have to continue to work with the state and other partners to find innovative ways to expand the workforce pipeline.
OHSU is also deeply involved in Governor Kitzhaber’s innovative plan for health care reform in Oregon, known as Transformation. The $1.9 billion agreement with the Obama Administration, an investment in the Governor’s plan, is still on track and a reminder that Oregon is well ahead of other states in implementing reform. Transformation, built around the establishment of new Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs), is being implemented at this moment. The Tri-County Medicaid Collaborative (TCMC), of which OHSU is a partner, is expected to serve as the CCO for the Portland metropolitan area. The TCMC received provisional certification from the state and expects to begin enrolling patients Sept. 1.
Oregon is asking each CCO to provide integrated care for its members, focused on prevention, and managed within a global budget. This will be an evolutionary process, with mistakes and ample opportunity to learn. But the commitment to change is unwavering, as is the expectation that innovations modeled through the CCO process will eventually be adopted by the commercial market, further bending down the cost curve. I see this as a true partnership between Oregon and the federal government, with both sides deeply committed to seeing Transformation succeed.
With universal coverage upheld, I believe the eyes of the nation will be on Oregon to see if Transformation can take the next step in health reform – improve community health and quality of care while reducing costs. There is hard work ahead, but I believe Oregon and OHSU are up to the job.