OHSU Reports Sharp Drop in Uninsured Patients

By mid-April, OHSU had raised $296 million toward its Knight Cancer Challenge, according to President Joe Robertson.

Oregon Health & Science University reported operating income of $69.8 million through March, which is $21 million over target and 11 percent above last year's revenues, according to chief financial officer Lawrence Furnstahl's report to the board of directors recently.

The payer mix changed markedly in the third quarter due to an increase in Medicaid-enrolled patients and a decrease in patients without insurance, due to the Affordable Care Act.

“Oregon did a particularly strong job of enrolling uninsured folks into Medicaid,” Furnstahl said. The majority of new Oregon Health Plan enrollees were food-assistance recipients who received paper applications as early as October, so most had no need to attempt to enroll through Cover Oregon's website. In the first half of fiscal year 2014, 5.1 percent of OHSU patients were uninsured, and 19.8 percent were enrolled in a Medicaid plan. Those numbers, which represent the last six months of calendar year 2013, are similar to patient-mix data from the previous two fiscal years.

But in the third quarter of the current fiscal year – that is, the first three months of 2014 – the number of uninsured patients dropped to 1.9 percent, and the number of Medicaid patients increased to 24.8 percent.

“This is, stunningly, as expected,” Furnstahl said.

Grant revenues were also slightly higher than at this time last year – $227,841 versus $203,429 – along with an overall increase in employees. In May 2009, OHSU had 12,529 employees, compared to March of this year, when it had 14,452 people on its payroll.

Mark B. Williams, vice president of campus development and administration, also discussed the progress of the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, which is under construction on the South Waterfront campus and will house research facilities and classrooms for three Oregon universities – OHSU, Portland State and Oregon State – as well as the new School of Dentistry.

Construction is in its final phases, and is expected to reach completion on time and on budget, Williams said – with some groups moving in during June. Williams estimated the total payroll – including OHSU staff and contractors – at more than $60 million.

The building is also on track to receive LEED Platinum certification – which recognizes use of environmentally-friendly building practices. The first floor laboratory, also called the OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine, meets the requested specifications for a low-vibration building, with workers using tuning forks in some cases so that the building vibrates as little as possible.

“Is someone ready to give $10 million so we can get rid of that complicated name and call it Joe Gray's Laboratory?” joked board chair Jay Waldron, referring to the center’s lead researcher.

Dentists need business training

School of Dentistry Dean Phil Marucha, who focused on the future of Oregon's only dental school, said students should be trained to collaborate with the rest of the healthcare system. Teaching dental students to do simple blood-sugar tests is key, he said, particularly among people who neglect to visit their primary care physicians regularly, and their diabetes goes undiagnosed.

Dentists also need business training during their education that prepares them to run a practice, Marucha said.

“At one time, 30 years ago, everyone went into private dental practice,” he added. “They're not really well schooled in how to make those decisions and how to contract well. It really means training them in economics. When I was in dental school I had a course in economics. Especially graduating with $250,000 in loans, they need to understand how to put this all together.”

In other news, OHSU President Dr. Joe Robertson announced that the Knight Cancer Challenge had raised $296 million, with gifts coming from 47 states, 25 of which were for $1 million or more.

“One really has the sense that this is truly becoming a movement. This is the rising tide that floats all boats,” Robertson said.

Christen can be reached at [email protected]

Image for this story by M.O. Stevens (public domain). 

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