Longtime Oregon Health Executive Heads Back to Louisiana

Oregon Health Co-op’s Prows reflects on Oregon’s past, future

Dr. Ralph Prows, who had been CEO of the Oregon Health CO-OP, has left Oregon after 22 years, with his wife, Susan, to head back to their roots in New Orleans. He’ll become president of Ochsner Health Network on July 8.

“I’ll be coordinating CCOs (Coordinated Care Organizations) with other hospitals across the south,” he said, which are especially needed after the drubbing the healthcare industry took following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Ochsner survived the storm and absorbed other failing hospitals to become the largest nonprofit health system in Louisiana.

“I didn’t expect to leave the CO-OP at this time,” said Prows. “It’s been among the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my career. “I was offered the (Ochsner) position in early March and it was a terribly difficult decision. But I can bring my skill set to help create managed care there, something they’ve never done in Louisiana.”

Prows’ professional background includes:

  • Being an internist at the first HMO in Texas, “which was kind of like Communism back then.” The hands-on nature of the work appealed to Prows “It was a start-up. I learned that the HMO model and managed care aren’t something to fear.”
  • CEO, The Corvallis Clinic
  • Chief Medical Officer, Cambia Health Solutions
  • Senior Medical Officer for Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah.

Reflecting on the healthcare industry in Oregon, Prows said, “I’ve seen a lot of good, but there’s a long way to go,” adding:

  • “Getting away from the fee-for-service model is a journey that needs to continue.”
  • “In Oregon, we struggle in communities where there’s a single hospital. They determine cost of care in a monopoly environment,” he added, citing Salem Hospital as the “poster child” for such behavior.
  • “When people can express themselves, change can happen.” Oregon Health CO-OP was “a whole new idea, where we defined what people wanted and figured out how to actualize it. Members have a direct say in the care they receive.”

Prows is confident the CO-OP “is exactly where it should be and will finish the year between 15,000 and 20,000 members. Break-even of 30,000 members will probably happen in our third year. You can’t grow too slow or too fast.”

Phil Jackson is interim CEO of the CO-OP while a search is underway for a permanent replacement.

Kendra Hogue is a Portland-based freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].

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