This week, Portland State University and the Oregon Health Authority released a new study that is positive for the state's looming Medicaid funding shortfall and for former Gov. John Kitzhaber's legacy.
The study found that a key component of Kitzhaber's healthcare reform package, so-called "patient centered primary care homes" have saved $240 million over three years by addressing Medicaid patients' medical issues before they became acute.
When Kitzhaber resigned on Feb. 18, 2015, he left behind some unfinished projects.
One was the new model of healthcare delivery for Medicaid patients that he convinced the feds to fund—so-called Coordinated Care Organizations. CCO's are geographic groupings of healthcare providers who are supposed to pool their efforts and spend Medicaid dollars more efficiently.
The idea was to provide better care and do it more cheaply, in part by addressing patients' problems before they became acute and required a trip to the emergency room or hospitalization.
Kitzhaber wanted providers and the state Medicaid administrators to expand their vision beyond traditional parameters of healthcare.
An example he used frequently cited using Medicaid dollars to buy a patient a $200 air conditioner rather than paying 100 times that amount later to hospitalize the same patient with congestive heart failure.
A more basic part of the CCO model called for adjusting behaviors around exercise and diet and forming a relationship with a primary care clinic so that routine health problems didn't fester.
That's where the patient-centered primary care homes came in. The new report examined 70 of the 408 clinics around the state designated as PCPCHs.
As the Portland Tribune reported recently, Kitzhaber, a former emergency room physician, is raising his profile again in healthcare reform circles.
He can now use the new PSU report as a calling card.