OHA Loses Chief Health Systems Officer; More Resignations Anticipated

The external relations manager may also be stepping down.

As Patrick Allen prepares to take over as interim director of the Oregon Health Authority, he may have his hands full looking for top managers. Not only have the Medicaid director and chief medical officer left in the last two months, but Dr. Chauhan Varsha, chief health systems officer and the state Medicaid operations director, turned in her resignation, effective Oct. 22.

Announcing her decision to staff this morning in an email obtained by The Lund Report, Varsha said, “This will be a smooth transition, and you will be soon hearing from the new agency Director on the transition plan.”

Varsha has played a commanding role at the OHA, leading the executive management teams for several departments, including: mental, behavioral, physical, and dental services; community partnerships; compliance; rates; licensing; and contracts.

She’s been responsible for making decisions that affect the overall direction of the organization, while also impacting health system delivery regulation, alignment, and financial sustainability.

And. she has overseen the professional rate processes at the state and federal level to ensure financial stability of Oregon’s Medicaid system.

Varsha came on board in 2015 and earlier had been a principal consultant with Health Management Associates.

Darby May Leave

The Lund Report has also learned that BethAnne Darby may be leaving the agency. Darby did not respond to a query by The Lund Report at press time.

Darby came on board less than two years ago, in November 2015, and has had broad responsibilities at the OHA, working hand in hand with Director Lynne Saxton. She not only has been handling county, state and federal legislative and government affairs; communications; but also oversees the OHA ombudsman Ellen Pinney.

Before joining the agency, Darby was assistant executive director for public affairs at the Oregon Education Association, and she also has a law degree from Willamette University.

The OHA has been plagued with enrollment and IT problems and been criticized for being lax on determining whether people on the Oregon Health Plan are actually eligible to receive services. Currently more than 1 million people receive such services.

More recently the agency came under fire after a Portland Tribune article by Nick Budnick revealed that Saxton, with the help of her staff, had devised a secret plan against FamilyCare to plant negative stories in other publications. She also intervened during the legislative session to thwart a bill sponsored by FamilyCare that dealt with rate reimbursement.

Saxton leaves the OHA in the hands of Allen on Aug. 31 after Gov. Kate Brown called for her resignation. Allen has headed the Department of Consumer & Business Services since 2011, and is well regarded not only by CCO leaders but also has worked well with legislators.

In July, Dr, Jim Rickards resigned as chief medical officer to become medical director for population health and delivery system collaboration at Moda Health.

Lori Coyner, the state’s Medicaid director also left at the end of a legislative session in which the Medicaid re-enrollment process came under heavy criticism with state leaders shifting responsibility away from the OHA to the Department of Human Services.

Both positions remain unfilled.

Diane can be reached at [email protected].

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