On Monday, Oregon lawmakers convene for the 2013 legislative session. In odd-numbered years such as this one, the purpose of the session is to approve the two-year state budget for public services.
The first step in that process is for Governor Kitzhaber to submit his recommended budget, which he did in December. I joined the Govenor's health policy advisor Mike Bonetto in a webinar laying out the details of the recommendations for the Oregon Health Authority. If you have not had a chance to watch it yet, it is available here.
This week I want to talk more about that budget. The Governor's budget was built on three main principles:
- Education – put children, families and education first.
- Jobs – invest in jobs and innovation.
- Costs – lower costs and increase efficiencies.
The Healthy People portion of the budget, which includes the Oregon Health Authority, helps meet those principles. The Oregon Health Plan is funded to the level in our agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And for the first time, the 2013 – 2015 Governor's budget is based on funding per-recipient health care costs in the Oregon Health Plan at a predictable and sustainable rate of growth. This is possible because of the health system transformation under way in every part of the state.
The Governor also proposed a 43 percent increase in community mental health services. This is a large increase and purposely so. It recognizes that adequate mental health and addiction treatment and prevention are fundamental to achieving our long-term goal of improving health and reducing health care costs. This issue is significant for our state in so many ways. For too long, community mental health and early intervention have been underfunded and we missed opportunities for early treatment that could have prevented illness progression and higher costs down the road. With this budget, there would be more programs for children, more in-home support for people living independently and more local residential treatment facilities for those who need a higher level of care. Most importantly, this is about recovery and dignity. It's about saving lives, beginning to reverse decades of stigma, and opportunities to help improve the lives of so many individuals and families.
You can see more about the governor's proposals here.
And of course, as an agency, we are doing all we can to coordinate our internal services to work as efficiently as possible.
The next step in the budget process is for the Joint Ways and Means Committee and its subcommittees – which include lawmakers from both sides of the aisle – to begin their own process of budgeting. Those of you who have been through this process before know that it will take about six months for the final budgets to be approved.
Although our agency does not have the same level of legislation before lawmakers as we did in the previous session that created coordinated care organizations, there are some key issues we are following that will help move forward health system transformation. I will have more about those next week.