Wednesday Short Cuts

A judge has blasted a California software giant's claim that a cabal of campaign advisers are to blame for the decision to tank the state's $300 million Cover Oregon website project.

Oracle in February sued five campaign advisers and consultants to former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who resigned in February. Oracle argued the exchange was ready to roll out in February 2014, but said advisers led by Patricia McCaig pulled the plug on the project for political reasons.

On Monday, Multnomah Circuit Court Judge Henry Kantor issued a written opinion ripping Oracle's legal arguments using language that went far beyond his earlier e-mailed notice of the decision. He called Oracle's arguments "totally unsupported by the evidence provided."

An important aim of the budget was to cut spending on the state Medicaid program, which provides healthcare to the elderly, disabled and poor. With nearly one quarter of the state receiving Medicaid benefits, Raimondo turned to the “Reinventing Medicaid” group she appointed, headed by Secretary of the Rhode Island Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Roberts. The budget cut the projected state cost of the Medicaid program by over $30 million while still keeping the reforms palatable for nursing homes and hospitals around the state.

HealthSource R.I., the state health insurance exchange, which was not guaranteed a future at the beginning of the legislative session, was also supported by the budget. Legislators had the option to abandon the exchange in favor of using its federally-run counterpart, But lawmakers decided to fund HealthSource R.I. by levying a tax on insurance premiums for individuals and businesses.

State and federal taxpayers will save an estimated $450 million next year on public health plans after seeking statewide competitive bids for the first time.

But the decision will mean turmoil as hundreds of thousands of low-income Minnesotans will have to change health plans, and at least two insurers are suffering devastating customer losses after losing out in the bidding process.

“People in government programs had to find new plans before, but the changes announced (Tuesday) go well beyond the transitions of the last few years,” said Jim Schowalter, president of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has awarded $38 million to continue the work of sharing information to improve and innovate care delivery and provider pay. 

The money will build upon massively funded health information exchange and workforce development training programs created in the early days of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Many of the 9,000 Pacific Islanders living in Oregon lack access to health insurance. That may soon change, thanks to recent legislation signed by Gov.Kate Brown.

House Bill 2522 directs the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services to take the first steps to develop a premium assistance program to ensure that citizens from Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia — the nations involved in a U.S. diplomatic pact called the Compact of Free Association — have the same access to health care as U.S. citizens in Oregon.

The Shumlin administration’s push to meet a key Vermont Health Connect milestone deadline eight weeks ago could leave the state on the hook for another $2.7 million it didn’t expect to pay.

The Joint Fiscal Office wrote in a July 24 memo that Vermont won’t be able to rely on between $862,000 and $2.7 million in federal funding for expenses that Vermont Health Connect incurred this spring while it was trying to fix the website’s change of circumstance function.