Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
July 17, 2009 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
FAQ about the Oregon Health Authority
"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights."
~Pauline R. Kezer
Over the past several weeks I have received several questions about the Oregon Health Authority and what the new agency will mean for employees and clients. Knowing that if several people have asked the same question, it's likely on the minds of many, today, for the benefit of all, I would like to address some of the more common questions.

FAQ on the Oregon Health Authority

Does this change mean that ultimately there will be two agencies?
Yes, but with a twist. All health care related functions will fall under the Oregon Health Authority, including Addictions and Mental Health, DMAP and Public Health, joined by the Office of Private Health Partnerships, the high-risk insurance pool (OMIP), the Public Employees' Benefit Board and the Oregon Educators Benefit Board. DHS will house Children, Adults and Families and Seniors and People with Disabilities.

But unlike traditional siloed state agencies, DHS and the Oregon Health Authority will be joined together in a unique way, centered around our clients. I anticipate that we will continue to share some key administrative functions and infrastructure. This will be worked out over the coming year.

Why is this change necessary? How is creating a new state agency going to help with health care reform?
We all know the problems with our health care system. It is too expensive, too many people are left out and it could do so much more to help us achieve a healthier Oregon. If the state does not get a handle on health care costs, they will eat up an ever increasing portion of the state budget, taking precious dollars away from other services. And anything we do at the state level has to both lead and be paired with broad health care system reform. That's why the OHA will be a new kind of state agency, one with a board that represents the diverse interests and populations of our state.

We know what we need to do to improve health care: focus on health and preventive care, put decisions back into the hands of patients and doctors, ensure that no one is left out, and reduce waste in the health care system. OHA will give us the ability to do that, both for our clients and for all Oregonians. The Oregon Health Authority will be tackling these problems in both the public and private sectors.

In the public sector, the Oregon Health Authority will consolidate all the state's health care programs, whether through the Oregon Health Plan, employee benefits or public-private partnerships. This will give the state greater purchasing and market power to begin tackling issues with costs, quality, lack of preventive care and health care access.

In both the public and the private sector, OHA will be working to fundamentally improve how health care is delivered and paid for and among other things, for developing recommendations for the next legislative session on a new Oregon Health Insurance Exchange, to allow businesses and individuals to compare and purchase health insurance plans.

And ultimately, OHA is charged with delivering a plan to the Legislature to ensure that all Oregonians have access to affordable health care.

Is the Oregon Health Authority going to be moving operations to Portland or moving to another building?
No. The Health Authority and DHS will remain closely linked both in body and spirit.

How will this change DHS's field structure?
It doesn't. The direct client service work being done in the field through CAF and SPD will not be changed. It is very important to me that this change doesn't throw up any roadblocks to client services and I will be very vigilant about that.

Is Dr. Goldberg the head of both DHS and the Oregon Health Authority now?
Until the transition is complete, I will remain both the director of DHS and the director-designee of the Health Authority. The transition to what will ultimately be two separate agencies, OHA and DHS, will be phased in over the next year or so. We have set up a transition team within DHS to help guide our steps to ensure there is no disruption for clients and that we are approaching this change in a way that positions both agencies for long-term success.

How will I know if I'm working for DHS or the Oregon Health Authority?
Ultimately SPD and CAF will remain as the Department of Human Services and our health care related divisions will fall under the Oregon Health Authority, but this change is not imminent. How some of the administrative services will be handled has yet to be determined. For some services, I anticipate a "shared services" model between the two agencies and for others, things will be split. As the transition team puts together the plans for the next two years we will continue to keep you updated so there will be no surprises.

How does this change affect the work being done through the Transformation Initiative?
Not only will our efforts to transform DHS keep moving forward, they are more important than ever. All of the work started with the Transformation will keep moving forward (in both agencies) and you can learn more at this new Web site: www.oregon.gov/dhs/transformation/. Additionally, the guiding principle behind creating the Oregon Health Authority is deeply rooted in the work we are doing to improve DHS. In the same way that our employees are striving for continual improvements in the way they do their jobs, at the state level we must be bold and innovative in addressing the health care crisis.

I hope this answers some of your basic questions. Please keep asking them. As we move forward we will be establishing an information center for DHS employees and the public so that you can stay informed every step of the way.

DHS on the web