Monday during the State of the State address, Governor Kitzhaber spoke about the progress we have made in Oregon to make the health care system more patient-focused, more equitable, and more sustainable.
Just one year ago during his previous such speech he called on the Legislature and the health care community to create the foundations for this change: coordinated care organizations and the health insurance exchange. Today, as you know, there are 15 CCOs serving about 90 percent of Oregon Health Plan clients and Cover Oregon, the health insurance exchange, will open in October – nine short months from now.
We met that challenge. This year as the CCOs and Cover Oregon begin their work, the Governor made clear we have more challenges ahead.
In talking about our state's economy and the road to recovery, Governor Kitzhaber pointed out an important truth: Some people are better served in our state than others. Some people are being left behind.
This inequity is heartbreakingly apparent in our health care system where the chance for a long and healthy life is so dramatically affected by where we are born, the color of our skin, and communities we live in.
This year, in partnership with the CCOs and Cover Oregon to build a new and better foundation for our health care system, we must keep this fundamental flaw in the current system at the forefront of our minds. We must reject its flawed construction and we must work to change it.
We must not accept that African Americans and Native Americans in Oregon have higher rates of hospitalization than others in our state. We must not accept that rural Oregon has less access to primary care than metro Oregon. We must not accept 24 percent of our children living in poverty. We must not accept the heavier toll this unemployment and poverty has on our communities of color – they represent 40 percent of our Medicaid population. We must not accept that the rate of death due to diabetes for African Americans and Native Americans in Oregon is more than twice that of white Oregonians.
As we prepare to celebrate the life work of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must look honestly at how well we are doing to create a system in which everyone in our state has the same opportunity for health and well-being. We – each and every one of us – are the architects and builders of the new health care system. Who it serves and how it serves them is up to us. That is our challenge. That is our charge.