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Dana Hittle, the top manager overseeing the Oregon Health Plan, has given notice

Oregon's Medicaid director oversees care for more than 1 million low-income Oregonians. It's considered among the most challenging and important posts at the Oregon Health Authority.
The Oregon Health Authority in Salem. | OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY
August 18, 2023

A second top official is leaving the Oregon Health Authority, which has gone without a permanent director since March.

Agency Interim Director Dave Baden announced to agency staff on Friday Aug. 18 that Dana Hittle, director of Medicaid for the health authority, is leaving for a job at the Oregon Department of Human Services. The move is effective Oct. 31.

In his all-staff email, Baden said he will “soon” name an interim Medicaid director, and will launch a search for Hittle’s replacement “in the coming weeks.” 

Her post, overseeing the Oregon Health Plan that provides free care to more than 1 million low-income Oregonians, is considered by agency observers to be one of the most challenging and important for the health authority.

Meanwhile, the search for a permanent director to fill the agency's top post — the one Baden is holding on an interim basis — is ongoing.

“Dana has been at the center of Oregon’s efforts to expand health coverage and transform health care for many years,” Baden wrote. “I appreciate everything Dana and her team have accomplished. She has worked incredibly hard, and this change gives her an opportunity to return full circle to the agency where she started.”

In an email to her staff, Hittle wrote that the decision to leave was difficult, and it “came down to my wellbeing and (the) wellbeing of my family.”

Hittle first took on her position on an interim basis in June 2021, having spent three years as deputy Medicaid director. In late February 2023 she was named formally to the position under Gov. Tina Kotek and then-agency director James Schroeder

Schroeder  then resigned after seven weeks as interim director, citing a desire to focus on his family. 

Among the toughest of Hittle’s responsibilities was overseeing major changes to the Oregon Health Plan as approved by the federal government in September 2022. Much of that work, known as Oregon’s “waiver” of standard federal Medicaid rules, is unfinished.

Also under way is Oregon’s renewed eligibility checks for Oregon Health Plan members, a process that could disenroll more than 200,000 people from the program.

Another initiative under way is a proposed Basic Health Program intended to minimize coverage losses by providing free care for people who make too much for the Oregon Health Plan — essentially the working poor. Agency officials’ efforts to secure federal approval of ideas to curb premium hikes caused by the new program have failed, giving fodder to insurance industry opposition.

“We’ll miss Dana’s leadership as we move forward with Oregon Health Plan (OHP) renewals, the implementation of Oregon’s cutting edge (waiver) and the development of a Basic Health Program,” Baden wrote. “At the same time, Dana has a strong leadership team – starting with her interim deputy director Vivian Levy – and they will continue to support Medicaid staff and the implementation of these key initiatives.”

Baden said he will take over leadership of the agency’s implementation of changes to the Oregon Health Plan.

Hittle had been one of only a few high-level holdovers who'd stayed on at the agency during the change in administrations.


Submitted by Lou Sinniger on Tue, 08/29/2023 - 17:38 Permalink

If we had a state-wide universal healthcare plan covering every resident no matter what level of income we wouldn't be kicking 200,000 people out of healthcare and we would need OHP thereby saving millions of dollars and headaches.