Counties, health agencies craft organization to meet state goals

POLK COUNTY -- The state legislators may be looking ahead to the 2013 session, but deadlines are approaching for local organizations to work out the details of health care reforms passed by lawmakers



POLK COUNTY -- The state legislators may be looking ahead to the 2013 session, but deadlines are approaching for local organizations to work out the details of health care reforms passed by lawmakers in the last session.

Several health care providers and associations in Polk and Marion counties are working to form a Coordinated Care Organization (CCO), a cornerstone of the reform legislation passed during the brief 2012 session.

CCOs should change the way care is delivered to Oregonians on the Oregon Health Plan, placing the focus on preventive care and managing chronic illnesses in a cost-effective manner. The Polk-Marion County regional CCO taking shape would serve about 60,000 people.

West Valley Hospital, Santiam Memorial Hospital, Silverton Hospital, Salem Health, Mid-Valley Behavior Care Network, Capitol Dental Care Inc. and WVP Health Authority are among those involved in forming the regional CCO.

Prospective CCOs have until Monday to submit a "letter of intent" to the Oregon Health Authority listing the potential partners and business structure the organizations will take. Final applications are due May 14.

Bob Brannigan

West Valley Hospital Administrator Bob Brannigan and Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope have been part of meetings where details of the Polk-Marion CCO are being worked out.

Brannigan said the group includes organizations that up to this point have been competitors and two counties with vastly different populations and needs. Still, they have been able to move forward.

"I see goodwill," Brannigan said. "We have different perspectives, but people are saying `I understand your position and I'm willing to give a little bit on mine for us to move forward.'"

Pope said he joined the meetings to assure that county safety net services -- Public Health, Mental Health and addictions services -- were not left behind. Marion County officials have taken a similar interest, he said.

Craig Pope

Pope also wanted to make sure the county has a voice in the management, including voting rights, of the new organization.

Brannigan and Pope said they believe the CCO will be formed as a limited liability corporation (LLC).

While negotiations seem to be moving forward, questions still remain.

One of the looming unknowns is whether Oregon will receive $2.5 billion over five years in federal money Gov. John Kitzhaber has promised to help with CCO start-up costs.

Brannigan said he is hopeful, but not optimistic that the funding will come through. Pope said the parties are planning as though it won't.

Tort reform, which the legislature did not address, could be a concern for the newly created CCOs. Brannigan said if not addressed soon, lawsuits could eat into the savings CCOs are supposed to achieve.

"We have a long way to go," Pope said. "There are a number of contentious issues to deal with as an organization. There is a lot of creative thinking that has to happen between now and the end (of this process) about how the CCO will provide care."



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