The Register-Guard

Oregon Caps Profits for Medicaid Managers

When Trillium Community Health Plan in Lane County and other coordinated care organizations were launched in Oregon four years ago, the state put no limits on the profits they could reap.

But starting this year, Oregon will impose a limit on CCOs’ profits.

Next big Oregon political fight will be heavyweight battle: massive increase in tax on corporations

The gavel had barely dropped on the contentious and short 2016 legislative session, but leading state lawmakers already were turning their ­attention to Oregon’s next big political fight.

Initiative Petition 28, a proposed corporate tax increase that would raise $2.6 billion a year, boosting state government revenues by nearly 30 percent, appears increasingly likely to go to ­Oregon voters this November.

That would tee up an all-out, multimillion-dollar campaign at the ballot box ­between public employee unions and other liberal groups that support the tax and business interests in and outside Oregon that oppose it.

“That’ll be a bloodbath. That gets really bad,” Senate President Peter Courtney, a Salem Democrat, said last week after the session’s adjournment. “And whoever wins doesn’t win for long because the wounds will take us years and years to get over.”

In addition to long-­standing struggles to fund public K-12 and college education, Oregon very likely faces a $1 billion two-year budget hole in 2017 because of rising public employee pension costs and new costs of providing health insurance to low-income residents under the Affordable Care Act.

Backers say IP 28 would provide much-needed money for vital public services, and targets mostly big, out-of-state businesses. But opponents say a tax increase of that size would have huge reverberations on the state’s economy, making it less attractive to do business in Oregon, and raising the cost of consumer goods.

Backers are collecting signatures for the measure and say they have more than 50,000 already. They will need 88,000 verified signatures to make the November ballot.

In the just-concluded session, majority Democrats justified passing a historic minimum wage increase and a phaseout of coal power, citing the looming threat of more extreme ballot measures on both those topics. Yet the idea of passing a law that would offer a moderate alternative to IP 28 never gained any traction. And leading Democrats cast doubt last week on the chances of holding a special session later this year to pass a ­compromise tax-increase measure.

Gov. Kate Brown, who hasn’t publicly taken a position on IP 28, said she was “open to revenue(-raising) conversations the Legislature wants to have.”

But, when pressed about whether she would call a special session, Brown responded: “At this point in time, no.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Portland Democrat, said a special session doesn’t make sense “unless you know what you’re planning to do.”

“That’s a big question mark right now,” she said. “There’s not a viable plan that would have voter support and meets the revenue needs of the state.”

Kotek also came out in support of IP 28 — becoming the first legislative leader to do so.

“I will vote ‘yes’ on it,” Kotek said. “Whether or not I’m out in front promoting it is another story.”

House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte placed the blame for the lack of momentum behind any alternative plan squarely at the feet of Kotek and Brown.

“Let’s be clear, Kate Brown and Tina Kotek want IP 28 to pass,” he said. “Their denial has become more and more painfully awkward as they evade the question. But the fact is they want our communities’ employers taxed, and they want to see this sales tax implemented in Oregon, which will raise the price of our consumer goods.”

Senate President Courtney also hinted that Brown and Kotek have only tepid support for ­alternatives to IP 28.

“You need to point-blank ask the governor and point-blank ask the speaker where they stand on (IP 28) and how hard they’re willing to work to try to do something so we can avoid it,” he told reporters last week. “I’m more than willing to roll up my sleeves and make a run at that thing any way to avoid it getting on the ballot. But I need a lot of help. And, right now, I feel pretty alone.”

Asked about those statements, Brown’s office declined Friday to comment.

Kotek said that, unlike on the minimum wage increase and the coal phaseout, a legislative compromise hasn’t materialized on taxes because “the business community has not stepped up to say they have a proposal.”

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber convinced labor unions to abandon a big tax increase measure in 2013, with hopes of striking a deal on taxes between business and labor. But “that didn’t result in anything,” Kotek said.

“If you look at the list of things that Oregonians will tell us they want to see us do and you look at our resources, there’s a mismatch,” she added, “Oregonians deserve a conversation at the ballot. (IP 28) is the conversation we need to have.”

But Ryan Deckert, the president of the moderate Oregon Business Association, said his organization “still hopes to convince the governor to oppose this massive tax hike.”

If Brown convinces IP 28 backers to drop the their effort, Deckert said that OBA has “a track record of being willing to have meaningful conversations on tough issues.”

“We know that our state has fiscal challenges, but that doesn’t mean you throw down this kind of ‘winner-takes-all’ proposal,” he said.

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Several communication officials depart PeaceHealth in Eugene, one indicates job was eliminated in restructuring

Several members of the PeaceHealth communications team in the Eugene-Springfield area have left PeaceHealth, with one indicating on social media that his job was eliminated as a result of restructuring at the nonprofit health system.

Jenny Ulum, who over the years has held communications and government relations leadership positions for PeaceHealth, joined King Estate Winery as managing director of strategic communications in late October.

Jim Godbold, director of communications at PeaceHealth, indicated on Facebook that his job had been eliminated as a result of downsizing and reorganization.

Andrea Ash, after a decade at PeaceHealth in communications and governance positions, posted on Facebook that Friday was her last day at PeaceHealth. Her post said she will start a new job with the energy division of Beecher Carlson, a large account corporate risk management brokerage.

Rebecca Taylor, a former senior communications specialist at PeaceHealth, became internal communications manager at Roseburg Forest Products in August.

PeaceHealth, a Catholic-affiliated health system, is headquartered in Vancouver, Wash. It operates 10 hospitals, an 800-provider group practice and laboratory system, among other services, in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

PeaceHealth has 16,000 employees — about 5,900 of them in Lane County.

Follow Sherri on Twitter @sburimcdonald . Email [email protected] .

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Jury returns $12.2 million verdict against PeaceHealth, doctors for causing brain damage

A Lane County jury has returned a $12.2 million verdict against PeaceHealth and doctors responsible for causing brain damage to a Springfield man who was administered 18 times the prescribed dose of a medication after his heartbeat became unstable following surgery in March 2011.

Lee Lyman, 56, was the victim of a drug medication error “of a magnitude never seen before” involving amiodarone, said Portland attorney Sam Freidenberg, Lyman’s court-appointed conservator.

Amiodarone is a drug used to restore normal heart rhythm.

Eugene attorney Don Corson represented Lyman in the case. The verdict was returned Monday following a three-week trial in Lane County Circuit Court.

A PeaceHealth spokesman said the company plans to issue a statement regarding the case sometime Wednesday.

According to a news release issued by a spokeswoman for Corson’s office, evidence at trial showed that an anesthesiologist working at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield administered 2,700 milligrams of amiodarone — instead of the 150 milligrams ordered by a surgeon after Lyman developed ventricular fibrillation after undergoing a procedure to replace his bicuspid aortic valve.

Corson filed a lawsuit on Lyman’s behalf in 2013. Named as defendants are PeaceHealth, Northwest Anesthesia Physicians and Dr. Albert Cho.

The jury found the defendants negligent and liable for causing harm to Lyman, who has five children and worked at a local factory before suffering brain damage. Corson said.

Lyman “has lost much of his ability to function and will require extensive medical care for the rest of his life,” Corson said.

The jury agreed that PeaceHealth bore 60 percent responsibility for the harm caused to Lyman; that Northwest Anesthesia Physicians bore 15 percent; and that Cho bore 25 percent responsibility.

According to the verdict form, Lyman was awarded $6,445,500 in economic damages to cover medical expenses and lost wages and earning capacity; and $5.75 million in noneconomic damages to compensate him for pain, suffering and interference with normal activities.

An approved “life-care plan” will ensure the money awarded to Lyman covers his needs, Corson said.

Trial testimony indicated the medication overdose happened after Cho misinterpreted figures on a hospital computer screen and retrieved three 900-milligram bottles of amiodarone from the hospital’s automatic dispensing machine, apparently believing that each of the bottles contained just 50 milligrams of the drug, Corson said.

A partial trial transcript shows that PeaceHealth’s pharmacy director, Greg Ripley, testified that Lyman’s treatment represented a hospital system failure.

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Youths file federal climate change lawsuit in Eugene

A group of 21 youths — several of them from Eugene — today filed a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that it is violating their constitutional rights by promoting the development and use of fossil fuels.

The plaintiffs are seeking a court order requiring President Obama to immediately implement a national plan to decrease atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to a safe level.

The 96-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene. The plaintiffs are between the ages of 8 and 19 years old, and include Kelsey Juliana, a Eugene native and plaintiff in a high-profile climate change lawsuit filed in Lane County Circuit Court against the state of Oregon.

The suit filed today alleges that the federal government has known for more than 50 years that carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels is causing global warming, but has continued to allow and promote the development and use of fossil fuels.

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Agate shareholders sue Register-Guard and state to try to prevent records release

Shareholders of Agate Resources Inc., the parent company of Trillium Community Health Plan — the coordinated care organization in Lane County — allege that disclosing the names and ownership interest of Agate shareholders would invade their personal privacy and threaten their professional reputations without serving any public interest.

Several shareholders in the Eugene company that manages services to about 95,000 Lane County Oregon Health Plan patients have sued the state and Guard Publishing Co., publisher of The Register-Guard, to try to stop the state from releasing public records.

University of Oregon researcher ties hormone levels to earnings and leadership

If you aren’t making a top salary or becoming a wise and revered leader in the workplace, you can blame the hormones sloshing around in your brain.

That’s the suggestion in a study by Pranjal Mehta, a University of Oregon psychology assistant professor, that appeared in a recent issue of the journal Psychological Science.

These are hormones with familiar names, testosterone, cortisol and oxytocin, but the way they work is more subtle and interesting than the conventional wisdom that’s grown up around them.

Each has good and evil sides, Mehta said in an e-mail interview from Amsterdam.

High testosterone is linked to aggression in the popular imagination, but, under some conditions, while it drives the desire to win, it also empowers a person to use subtle means to triumph in ways far from brute-force aggression.

High cortisol is associated with damaging levels of stress, but it’s also associated with effort, motivation and better performance.

Oxytocin, the love hormone, does allow a person to bond with others, which is good, but it can also spur prejudice — spreading love and light to the “in” group while being aggressive to those on the outside.

Mehta, a pioneer in the field of social neuroendocrinology, conducts laboratory experiments with human subjects that examine the role of hormones, which he measures by testing his subjects’ saliva.

It’s a young field with a lot of questions to answer. He’s interested in how the hormones work in concert to influence social behavior — and the biological mechanics, such as what exactly happens when hormones cross the blood-brain barrier.

His lab at the university combines psychology with the methods of neuroscience, such as measuring hormone fluctuations, administering hormones, neuroimaging, cardiovascular measurements and genotyping.

In the recent study, Mehta put 70 Columbia University MBA students through an experiment that placed them in pairs, one buyer and one seller, in a simulated negotiation of a price for the sale of a pharmaceutical plant. The researchers tested hormone levels before and after negotiation.

The striking finding was that the students who had testosterone increases and cortisol decreases made significantly more money in the negotiations than those with different hormone profiles.

But in those students who experienced a rise in both testosterone and cortisol, their earnings were weaker overall.

Those with the money-making hormone profile — rising testosterone/falling cortisol — “were actually less aggressive presumably because foregoing aggression was more financially advantageous in the bargaining situation they were in,” according to the study.

Participants with the advantageous profile also built a better rapport with their bargaining partners, the researchers learned through post-experiment questionnaires.

They seem to have the testosterone-driven desire to win but with low cortisol, they’re calm, cool and collected.

“Sellers who rose in testosterone and dropped in cortisol had partners that actually liked them more,” Mehta said. “We think they are being strategic or charming, or both.”

An individual’s hormone profile is steady, but not unchangable, Mehta said. He suggests some ways that those who want to be better negotiators or leaders can change their hormone levels.

Eventually, drugs are possible.

“Personally, I don’t like the drugs idea. It’s premature; plus medicine itself should be moving away from drugs, too, to more psychological/behavioral lifestyle interventions,” Mehta said.

Striking a power pose is one way to raise testosterone, one study found. Standing tall, arms out with a wide stance can actually change hormone levels.

Eating a low-sugar diet is also associated with testosterone increases, and so is having sex.

The later works for both men and women. Although women have one sixth the amount of testosterone in their blood, the study found they reacted the same way as their male counterparts — it’s the fluctuation, not the absolute levels, that count.

Exercising at a moderate — not vigorous — pace has shown to reduce cortisol levels. So does getting enough sleep and finding social support.

“We have unpublished evidence from a pilot study suggesting that a mindfulness intervention can induce the testosterone increase/cortisol decrease profile in decision-making contexts. We are doing more research on this though,” Mehta said.

To increase oxytocin, get a massage, studies suggest.

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Statewide paid sick leave policy advances

Over strenuous Republican objections, the Legislature’s joint budgetary committee this morning approved a statewide paid sick leave policy.

The bill now heads to the full Senate and House floors, where it is expected to be approved, potentially as early as next week.

A top priority for majority Democrats, the paid sick leave policy have been debated for months, with many of its details up in the air until recently.

The latest version of Senate Bill 454 would require any employers with 10 or more employees to provide up to five days a year of paid sick time to their employees.

The exception would be Portland, whose 2013 paid sick leave policy applies to employers of six or more. That policy would be allowed to stand. But Eugene’s still-unimplemented 2014 policy, which applies to employers of all sizes, would be negated.

In order to gain support of several moderate Democrats in the Senate, the policy is tied to a separate bill, Senate Bill 968, which creates a two-year ban on local governments enacting rules regarding employee scheduling.

The proposed ban comes as labor advocates nationally have started lobbying for laws requiring employers to give their workers early notice of their schedule and of any possible changes — policies dubbed “predictive” or “fair” scheduling.

Republicans proposed a number of amendments today to the sick leave bill. One would have required only business with 25 or more employees to provide paid sick leave. Another would have exempted the agricultural industry from the requirement.

Sen. Chuck Thomsen, a Hood River Republican and a pear farmer, said the policy was unworkable for farmers who need a flexible and available seasonal workforce during short harvest windows.

“This is impossible for agriculture,” added Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles. “You can’t imagine the hectic nature” of harvests

Democrats voted down the amendments, without discussion.

After the vote, a visibly frustrated Thomsen walked out of the meeting.

“I’m not feeling very well,” he said. “So I’m going to take a sick day.”

In a prepared statement after the vote, Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, a Portland Democrat who sponsored the bill, urged the Senate to pass “this basic workplace standard.”

“The truth is, people are more productive when they can stay home to recover and care for their families without losing pay or risking their jobs,” she said. “Voters overwhelmingly support paid sick time and a growing number of employers do too.”

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