Fewer ER visits for Ore. Medicaid patients, report shows

SALEM, Ore. — People on the Oregon Health Plan are making fewer visits to the emergency room and more visits to primary care clinics, according to a new report on Oregon’s year-old coordinated care organizations.

The Oregon Health Authority says the report shows Gov. John Kitzhaber’s overhaul of the state Medicaid program is achieving its goals in reducing unnecessary use of the emergency room.

But the figures don’t allow for a definitive conclusion about whether the coordinated care organizations are responsible for the shifts. The report looked only at Medicaid patients, so it’s unclear if the results were substantially better than other segments of the health care market.

Oregon Health Plan members made 13 percent fewer ER visits in the first nine months of 2013 when compared with 2011. Every coordinated care organization saw a reduction, although the level varied widely. Hospitalizations for chronic conditions also dropped by 32 percent for heart failure, 46 percent for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 18 percent for adult asthma.

The number of primary-care visits jumped 16 percent in the year after coordinated care organizations launched.

Kitzhaber persuaded Oregon lawmakers to create coordinated care organizations to oversee physical health, mental health and dental care for patients in their area. The Obama administration gave Oregon nearly $2 billion over five years to keep the Medicaid system afloat while the coordinated care organizations ramp up their operations. In exchange, the state has promised to save at least as much money over the following five years.

The 16 coordinated care organizations have more flexibility to care for patients, but they must stick within strict funding limits. Proponents hope the combination of more flexibility and limited funding will encourage the coordinated care organizations to find new ways to reduce avoidable hospital visits. Some are hiring case workers to actively ensure patients are following treatment plans or to intervene with patients who frequently visit emergency rooms.

The report looked at the use of ERs by Medicaid patients before and after the coordinated care organizations were created.

A study published last month found that patients newly covered under Oregon’s Medicaid program made 40 percent more emergency room visits in the first two years compared with others who didn’t gain coverage. The study by researchers at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere looked at a period before Oregon created coordinated care organizations.

More in Local News

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Jogger unharmed after fending off attacker in Edmonds

Police released video of a man they believe to be the attacker.

Darrington School Board dealing with upheavals

The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Three teens arrested for Marysville school vandalism

Windows were broken and a trash bin was on fire Sunday night at a Marysville middle school.

Langley mayor threatens newspaper with lawsuit

The mayor threatened to sue the paper over claims he withheld public records disclosure information.

Divers called to recover body after train hits pedestrian

The accident was reported by a BNSF crew near Woods Creek in Monroe.

FILE - This Tuesday, May 30, 2017 file photo, former Washington Gov. John Spellman, second from left, leaves a memorial service in Renton, Wash. Spellman, the last Republican governor elected in Washington, has died at age 91. Spellman’s son, Seattle attorney David Spellman, confirmed his death Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren,File)
John Spellman was last GOP governor of Washingon

He had spent recent weeks “being very disappointed with the Cougs and the Huskies,” his son said.

Most Read