With the gubernatorial election in Oregon finally over, John Kitzhaber will transition to take the reins of Oregon's governorship. One of the key elements that Kitzhaber brings to the table is a broad and deep understanding of the health care system, and an ability to build on his work from his first whack as governor with the Oregon Health Plan.
This nugget of Kitz's leads the Washington Post's Dylan Matthews (blogging at Ezra Klein's blog) to shine a spotlight on Oregon:
While everyone is busy arguing over whether Republicans won bigger in the House because of health-care reform, arguably the most consequential race in the country for health issues has finally been called. John Kitzhaber (D), who was governor of Oregon from 1994 to 2002, has been elected to a third term in that office.
Kitzhaber, a former ER doctor, was best known during his previous terms as governor and during his time in the state senate for helping create the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), which was among the first state attempts to experiment with federal Medicaid money to provide broader care. Rather than set up a traditional Medicaid program, OHP aimed to provide fewer, higher-value services to more residents. The system worked well at first, cutting the uninsurance rate from 18 percent in 1992 to 11 percent in 1996, but then started to unravel when an expanded version was passed in Kitzhaber's last year in office.
Oregon has a unique opportunity to expand and create a health care model using the new federal health care legislation dollars--and Kitzhaber is uniquely situated to take the lead. Once again, our state will likely show the way for other states when it comes to innovative, money saving ways to implement good government.
The Republicans in the Oregon Legislature, who will certainly be feeling their oats after cutting into Democratic majorities in the Senate and tying the House, should tread carefully here. I suspect the Oregon electorate will be in no mood for gridlock when it comes to this.