|Last week I wrote about some of the staff changes that are happening at DHS, in part because the health programs are transitioning to the Oregon Health Authority.
Today I want to again talk about transition, specifically about what has been created by the passage of House Bill 2009 and how we are going to get there.
Joining together to make Oregon healthy
Just like DHS, the Oregon Health Authority is about helping people, and the missions of the two agencies are intertwined. Our DHS staff knows first-hand the difference improved health care access and affordability can make for the clients we care for. As an organization, we know rising health care costs are eating up more and more of our budget. Every dollar we pay toward unnecessary health care costs is a dollar we are not spending on other critical services, such as in-home care for a senior or support for a child welfare caseworker. Working together, the two agencies will realize mutual benefits for shared clients.
House Bill 2009 created the Oregon Health Authority and set a mandate to meet three important goals:
- Access: Expanding access to health care to every Oregonian;
- Quality: Transforming delivery of health care to make sure everyone receives quality care; and
- Affordability: Containing costs to make health coverage affordable for all
Today there is an unnatural separation between health and health care. The Oregon Health Authority will bridge this gap and work to improve the overall health of the public. Doing so will have the added benefit of reducing costs attached to preventable conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Addressing the cost issue will be a top priority the Oregon Health Authority will tackle from other angles as well. The Oregon Health Authority will coordinate all the health care purchasing we now do in the public sector for over 800,000 Oregonians -- from Medicaid to the Public Employees Benefit Board. It will allow us to establish incentives to provide better care and help eliminate administrative waste and inefficiencies.
Ultimately, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Health Policy Board will present a proposal to the Legislature to provide health care to all Oregonians. The recently launched Healthy Kids plan was just the beginning.
Creating a unique, new model for state agencies
The transition opens the door to opportunity at DHS. Moving forward, we'll continue our mission to reinvent government by creating a new way for public agencies to do business. DHS and the Oregon Health Authority will operate in concert in a way no other agencies do. Since we'll be serving many of the same clients, the leadership of the two organizations will continue to be housed together in the Human Services Building in Salem and will share many administrative services.
The unique organization of the two agencies is being designed to strengthen connections for the benefit of our clients. The needs of our clients will be front and center as we move through the transition to structure a new Oregon Health Authority and a renewed DHS. Our field structure will not change. Building upon and continuing our Transformation Initiative work, we will continue to seek even better ways to serve our clients and work with the many partners who deliver services.
Deploying a smooth transition
DHS employees won't see the transition cause much change in their daily work right now. We're in the planning stages where the nuts and bolts of the transition are being put together. A project team is being organized to work under the direction of the DHS Cabinet. The project team will start with an in-depth analysis of our business practices to determine what services can and should be shared.
We're also starting our communication efforts to keep you informed along the way. We'll continue using e-mail messages to communicate, and we will hold meetings and set up a Web site to provide information. We'll be asking a group of stakeholders to help provide advice about the transition, and we'll work closely with our statewide labor management team.
Over the next two years we have a number of important tasks ahead of us. We must make this transition smoothly and effectively. We must move forward to reform health care. We must enhance our efforts to ensure vulnerable children, families, seniors and people with disabilities are safe and given the help they need to thrive.
The transition is not only about health care; it's about the larger web of services we weave together daily to help every Oregonian be independent, healthy and safe. You have my commitment that I will be ever vigilant to ensure no momentum or focus on all the important work we do at DHS is lost during the transition. Your work is more important than ever before.