SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber will brief other state leaders this weekend on his plan to lower Medicaid costs, touting an overhaul that President Barack Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address for its potential to lower the deficit even as health care expenses climb.
The Oregon Democrat leaves for Washington, D.C., on Friday to pitch his plan that changes the way doctors and hospitals are paid and improves health care coordination for low income residents so that treatable medical problems don’t grow in severity or expense.
Kitzhaber says his goal is to win over a handful of other governors from each party.
“I think the politics have been dialed down a couple of notches, and now people are willing to sit down and talk about how we can solve the problem” of rising health care costs, Kitzhaber told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
Kitzhaber introduced the plan in 2011 in the face of a severe state budget deficit, and he’s been talking for two years about expanding the initiative beyond his state. Now, it seems he’s found people ready to listen.
Hospital executives from Alabama visited Oregon last month to learn about the effort. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that it’s giving Oregon a $45 million grant to help spread the changes beyond the Medicaid population and share information with other states, making it one of only six states to earn a State Innovation Model grant.
Kitzhaber will address his counterparts at a meeting of the National Governors Association. His talk isn’t scheduled on the official agenda, but a spokeswoman confirmed that Kitzhaber is expected to present.
“The governors love what they call stealing from one another — taking the good ideas and the successes of their colleagues and trying to figure out how to apply that in their home state,” said Matt Salo, director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.
There’s been “huge interest” among other states in Oregon’s health overhaul, Salo said, not because the concepts are brand new, but because the state managed to avoid pitfalls that often block health system changes.
Kitzhaber persuaded state lawmakers to redesign the system of delivering and paying for health care under Medicaid, creating incentives for providers to coordinate patient care and prevent avoidable emergency room visits. He has long complained that the current financial incentives encourage volume over quality, driving costs up without making people healthier.