Counties with the highest opioid prescription levels in the U.S. tend to have small cities and a higher percentage of white residents. They also have a high unemployment rate, more doctors and more people living with arthritis and disabilities.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in Oregon, that translated to eastern counties like Union and Wallowa, and southwestern counties like Lane, Douglas and Jackson.
Head of the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, said many doctors still prescribe too many pills, for too long at a high dosage.
Oregon Democratic lawmakers are rushing to set up a potential special election in January that could decide the fate of a $550 million tax on the health care industry. They say this middle-of-winter election might be necessary to ensure that thousands of low-income Oregonians don’t lose their medical coverage.
But Republican Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and some GOP legislators say that the Democrats are trying to tilt this potential vote in their favor.
A pair of bills aimed at helping people struggling with mental health have passed out of the Oregon Senate.
House Bill 3090 would make hospital emergency room employees draw up discharge plans for mental health patients, even if they haven’t been admitted. And House Bill 3091 would force health insurance companies to cover behavioral health checks.
Kevin Fitts, an advocate who’s suffered dozens of mental health crises said it’s not unusual to spend hours being assessed in the ER, only to be released without treatment or follow up.
As Oregon lawmakers grapple with a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, even some legislative leaders are having trouble gaining traction for their priorities.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, made the case Monday for keeping mental health programs off the chopping block in the upcoming spending plan.
"There are cuts and there are cuts," Courtney said to reporters in his state Capitol office. "I think mental health is taking a disproportionate amount of cuts. And there are certain things you can't cut as much as others."
Many health care organizations are putting plans on hold as they wait to see what happens with the Affordable Care Act.
But one Oregon clinic is expanding anyway.
Virginia Garcia Memorial Health is a series of 16 clinics dotted around Washington and Yamhill Counties. They serve Medicaid patients, undocumented people who don’t have health insurance, and thousands of children.
The head of one of Oregon’s largest health insurers, Moda Health, said the company will remain in the individual market for now.
But speaking on OPB’s Think Out Loud, Robert Gootee, said he’s worried about what will replace the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have said is a priority under the Trump Administration.
“I think one of the things a Republican administration is going to have to do between now and April is to provide some certainly in the markets," Gootee said. "Which is what the original Obamacare and the ACA market did with risk abatement programs."
The chief budget-writers for the Oregon Legislature have released a spending proposal that includes cuts to state programs.
The proposal issued Thursday outlines how lawmakers might bridge an expected budget gap.
Revenues continue to grow in Oregon, but the cost of providing services is growing faster, adding up to a $1.8 billion shortfall for the two-year budget cycle that starts in July, according to the co-chairs of the Legislature's budget-writing committee.
The president of Oregon Health And Science University isn’t waiting to see what Republicans do with the Affordable Care Act. In anticipation of deep cuts, he’s stopping the hiring of most new staff.
As a large, urban teaching hospital, OHSU gets a disproportionate share of Medicaid patients. For example, OHSU is responsible for close to 20 percent of all the money spent on hospitalizing them in Oregon.
About 900 service and maintenance workers at PeaceHealth Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington, have voted to unionize.
The hospital employees will join the American Federation of Teachers, the union announced last week.
“The union is a vehicle for these workers to help their patients and themselves—to ensure the patients they serve receive the care they need, and to fight for the wages and fair treatment on the job that every worker at PeaceHealth deserves,” Randi Weingarten, AFT President said in a statement.