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Kitzhaber Seeks Federal Health Care Waiver

This week, Oregon is looking to get federal permission to move ahead with a key cost-cutting strategy for health care. It’s part of what Governor John Kitzhaber calls his health care “transformation.”

Rob Manning / OPB

Oregon is one of many states asking the Obama administration for more flexibility when it comes to managing health care. In Oregon, the idea is to switch up the Medicaid billing codes.

Say a boy suffering from asthma keeps making expensive visits to the emergency room. The change would allow Medicaid to pay for a community health worker to visit the boy’s home.

Maybe his family just needs a new vacuum cleaner.

Kitzhaber says this could happen more easily under so-called Coordinated Care Organizations. And he wants them to be up and running this summer.

So, Kitzhaber is trying to reach a deal this week with the Obama administration on a federal waiver to allow these new organizations. In fact, the Democratic governor cancelled several scheduled events for a sudden trip to the nation’s capital.

Spokesman Tim Raphael says the meetings are not an indication the waiver is at risk but rather to nail down an agreement soon.

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