Lynne Saxton Brings Compassion and Integrity to Oregon Health Authority
When Lynne Saxton accepted former Governor John Kitzhaber’s request to become the next administrator of the Oregon Health Authority, she realized the job would not come without its foibles. After all, the coordinated care organizations had just taken their first steps, and were now in what she called “the post-adrenaline-rush fatigue when adrenalin is running out just when it’s time for implementation and results.”
Saxton, who was confirmed by the Senate on Monday, isn’t afraid of stepping into deep waters. Her professional experience in the private nonprofit sector taught her the importance of maintaining stability, while keeping the stakeholders at the table.
In an interview with The Lund Report yesterday, Saxton shed light on the most pressing issues facing the Oregon Health Authority. Some of her remarks also come from her appearance at Willamette University.
TLR: I understand the CCO executives sent a letter to the governor in late January about the 2015 rates and the rate-seeing process.
LS: Yes, they were concerned about various aspects of those rates, that we were not able to deliver the rates for 2015 until right before Christmas which gave them very little turnaround time. I’ve met with all the CCO executives and have assured them that I’m committed to having the rates available for 2016 in September. Also, there were some differences in the rates paid to various regions of the state.
TLR: The proposed sale of Trillium Health Plan to Centene, a Fortune 500 company, has raised the ire of stakeholders who are worried it will adversely impact Medicaid clients. Has that message reached your desk?
LS: I am aware of this, and several people have expressed their concerns but I have not discussed this in detail. The main issue seems to be that this is something new and different and the impact on what we’re doing now. It’s something I’m planning to look into.
TLR: Currently there are 16 coordinated care organizations, and some have very low enrollment numbers, particularly those in the rural communities. Can they call all survive in the long run, regardless of their membership?
LS: The number of CCOs is very workable for us. I’m focused on aligning a successful and smoothly run healthcare system –that’s a primary focus for me right now.
TR: Earlier you ran Youth Villages Oregon, which provides in-home and residential treatment for children with behavioral or emotional problems. How will your experience impact mental healthcare at the state level?
LS: Yes, I spent the last 13 years of my career working with children and families, and am passionate about bringing established practices and proven solutions to the challenges faced by this population. I intend to enthusiastically work with the Oregon Health Authority to integrate mental health solutions into the transformation process and identify a sustainable path for mental health for children and adults. It’s a complex maze, and we have a long way to go in the next few years. Equally important is incorporating dental health.
But I remind people that we’re still in the start-up phase, and, as time goes on and the system becomes fully integrated, I’m confident we can produce the client outcomes that we’re all hoping for.
TLR: Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and other independent providers are being excluded from the CCO in Klamath County, while people wait to get medical care. Is this something you intend to look into?
LS: It’s on my dashboard but I haven’t had the opportunity to immerse myself in this issue yet. And, yes, I will look into it once I get up to speed on all the variables.
TLR: I understand the metrics from the African American and Hispanic communities are troubling.
LS: My broader concern is that the metrics we’re using are disproportionate across the board, not in regard to any particular ethnicity. We need to use the best scientific practices and look at targeted solutions. I want affordable, accessible care for all populations
TLR: Right now more than half the babies 48,000 born in Oregon are born into poverty. Can that change?
LS: That’s a metric we have to keep our eyes on. If we don’t do something effective in that 0-9-year-old age group, we won’t have a workforce. We’ll have to bring in a workforce. The Oregon Health Authority along with other state agencies, including the Department of Education and the Department of Consumer and Business Services are aware of the changing demographic profiles in the state. We need to look at what we’re doing to meet that need and what we’re doing collaboratively in sharing best practices, resource and information.
TLR: You’ve repeatedly mentioned three top priorities now that you’re the administrator of the Oregon Health Authority, Would you mind clarifying them.
LS: The first is quality care by supporting best practices. Next, aligning with the CCOs and our agency so we can streamline the regulatory and operating functions. We’ve made it very clear to the CCOs that they’ll have one point of access, one door to come through as opposed to various divisions of the agency to get responses.
The third priority is financial stability which is really critical. Some of the federal support will change as the years go by, and our enrollment figures are higher than expected due to the Affordable Care Act. We need to continue on the terrific path we’re on to integrate physical, mental and dental care and improve prevention practices.
I heard loud and clear from stakeholders that the last few years have been a very intense period. And, I’m very excited about ensuring that the process of healthcare transformation is realized – not only better care and better health but also lowering the cost. In spite of Cover Oregon, we’ve made tremendous progress compared to other states and can bend the cost curve even more. That will free up resources for other critical state needs and give us the opportunity to use implementation and management skills to produce the results we all need and want.
Diane can be reached at [email protected].