As a part of the Affordable Care Act, coordinated care organizations or CCOs, are a new way to coordinate health care for Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) members in their communities.
In 2011, when the State of Oregon looked for ways to cut costs to the Oregon Health Plan, then Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, a physician, charged professionals in the system to coordinate care, look at which systems needed to be improved and how they could give better service over the course of a life while keeping costs down.
It’s more than just physical health care; it also includes mental health care, dental care, and alcohol and drug dependence programs.
According to Mimi Haley, CEO of Columbia Pacific CCO, the coordinated care of patients and families in Oregon and Tillamook County is working. Focusing on the overall health of individuals and families, working on preventative care and coordinating these efforts under one roof are making families and individuals healthier, which in the long term saves the state money through less admissions to hospitals and it’s improving the overall health of people they serve.
“We’re integrating health care to transform health by knitting all systems together,” she said. “But we’re taking directions from local health care organizations in these efforts.”
Also according to Haley, from 2017 to 2018 administrators have seen a seven-percent reduction in the overall cost of Oregon Health Plan.
“It takes a while, the first two-and-a-half years were starting-up,” Haley said. “We’re seeing less medical admissions and that saves money.”
The goal, according to Marlene Putman, administrator of Tillamook County Community Health Centers, who also sits on the board of directors for Columbia Pacific CCO, is to coordinate efforts to make people healthier. So, how do you improve health long term, and what does that mean?
“It means working with the whole person,” Putman said. “It means physical health, it means behavioral health, it means dental health, it means addressing a lack of food, a lack of transportation, and a lack of housing and it means breaking cultural barriers. Our CCO encompasses all of these factors – this was the initial focus and still is our focus.”
Columbia Pacific works closely with members, health providers and the community. Together, they work to improve the overall health of the community, give patients better care, and find ways to deliver care more efficiently.
“Columbia Pacific is a partner within our community, not just for healthcare,” Putman said. “They help with staff training, they invest in and help with local organizations who are committed to the same goals as CPCCO like our County Wellness Coalition (aka Year of Wellness), Helping Hands, and the Women’s Resource Center.”
Columbia Pacific focuses on preventing disease and helping people manage chronic health issues (like asthma and diabetes). Instead of treating members only when they get sick, CCOs work with members to keep them healthy.
“It’s a different way to look at healthcare,” Putman said. “It’s a very unique approach.”
This integrated approach to health care offered through Columbia Pacific, the Community Health Center and other participating health care providers directly benefit Oregon Health Plan members and their families. But in reality, they benefit everyone in the community, because these entities are working together to identify key health issues for the whole area. Then, these professionals work with other local organizations and partners to improve health for everyone not just Oregon Health Plan members.
“In the old system, Oregon Health Plan members might have had three separate plans for their physical, mental and dental care,” Haley added. “Providers for physical, mental and dental health were separate – so they weren’t coordinating care. Now, providers are working together in much more efficient ways to improve the care of each and every member.”