Top med fed boosts Oregon reform push

One of the question marks in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s plan to reform Oregon’s health care system has been whether Uncle Sam will look kindly on it. Kitzhaber says his ability to preserve health care for low-income Oregonians while cutting hundreds of millions in spending relies on receiving permission — in the form of a waiver– from the federal government.

So on Wednesday night, as Kitzhaber met with more than 40 others working on the health care reform plan, the telephone participation of Dr. Donald Berwick, a top Medicare and Medicaid official for the federal government, was a very good sign.

Even better was what he said. As reported by the Salem Statesman-Journal, Berwick called Oregon a “beacon” and encouraged Kitzhaber’s group to lead the way for the country.

Berwick has been a lightning rod for Republican attacks in Washington, D.C. But given the pressure the federal official has already received from Sen. Ron Wyden — including questioning at a Senate hearing last November on this topic — Kitzhaber has to be encouraged that Berwick is now publicly rooting the state on.

For more on the question marks in Kitzhaber’s budget, check The Bulletin this Sunday.

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