Mulling Senate Run, Oregon Gov. Seeks to Expand State Medicaid Program
As he considers running for the Senate next year, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) is "leaning" on state lawmakers to sustain the financially troubled Oregon Health Plan after his tenure as governor ends next year, the Las Vegas Sun reports. The plan, the state's Medicaid program, covers more than 350,000 "poor and working poor" Oregon residents (Las Vegas Sun, 6/23). The program uses a "prioritized list" of medical procedures. Treatments judged to be "the most important and most likely to be effective" are covered, but conditions such as sprains or viral infections that "would heal on their own" are not. The plan has been "plagued by rising medical costs," and Kitzhaber is asking the state Legislature to approve an "overhaul" of the program that would "financially shore up" the plan and add an additional 50,000 beneficiaries. The proposal would require raising co-payments and "paring back services" for some enrollees.
Making sure that the Oregon Health Plan "remains financially solvent" could give Kitzhaber an "effective campaign tool" if he chooses to run against Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) in 2002, the Sun reports. Kitzhaber was first elected governor in 1994 with "the help of the fame he earned as architect" of the program. Jim Moore, who teaches political science at the University of Portland, said the health plan "would be a handy issue for [Kitzhaber] to run on" if he sought a Senate seat, adding, "It would show his ability to craft a solution to an issue that is fundamental to the lives of Oregonians" (Las Vegas Sun, 6/23).