Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
February 13, 2009 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
Celebrating Two Oregon Milestones
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. "
~Winston Churchill
February brings two important milestones to Oregon this year. One is Oregon's sesquicentennial, and I'll be celebrating the 150th birthday of our state this weekend with thousands of other Oregonians. The other milestone this month is that it's now been 15 years since the Oregon Health Plan was launched and I find myself searching for the appropriate way to commemorate the Oregon Health Plan milestone.

There have been a number of achievements worthy of recognition.

  • More than 1.875 million Oregonians have received health care as a result of the Oregon Health Plan and many are healthier and indeed alive today as a result.
  • We have a system to explicitly and publicly allocate health care resources and establish their utility and effectiveness.
  • With our OHP managed care plans, we have established a system of effective regional partnerships that we can build upon to assure local collaboration, needed change in our health care delivery system, and accountability for results.
Thousands of children -- and adults -- have received care under OHP in the past 15 years.
Thousands of children -- and adults -- have received care under OHP in the past 15 years.

Those are things to celebrate... and at the same time there are causes for concern that affect us all. More than 600,000 people in Oregon are without health insurance, and more than 100,000 of them live in severe poverty. Many people with health insurance do not feel secure with their coverage. And tragically we are far from our original objectives of a healthy Oregon where everyone has access to a basic level of health care in a system that provides the most effective, highest quality care.

That so many go without needed health care blemishes our collective community, our humanity, and our state.

At a time when personal and national finances dominate our conversations, the fact that most personal bankruptcy is a result of health care debt only adds to our collective liability and fiscal insecurity. Adding insult to injury is that we continue to leave billions of federal dollars in Washington, D.C., that could be going to Oregon's health care system. Every Oregon dollar put into the Oregon Health Plan brings more than $1.66 from the feds and we are far from taking full advantage of that.

Our medical advances have widened - not narrowed - the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Until we reform our health care system, we must do all we can to continue to help our neighbors get the health care they need. That includes making investments in OHP, assuring we provide health care to all Oregonians in poverty by restoring OHP standard, and covering all children.

The Oregon Health Fund Board has designed a path that moves us rapidly toward being a state in which affordable and effective health care is available and accessible to all http://healthfundboard.oregon.gov/.

Whether the Oregon Health Plan is part of a reformed health care system for our state is beside the point. If we can create a system that focuses on the health of all Oregonians, one in which health care is delivered effectively and efficiently, and one in which all Oregonians can afford the health care they truly need, we can really celebrate.

DHS on the web