Measuring Healthcare Costs Doesn't Concern Dr. Joe Robertson

Robertson, president of OHSU, shared his thoughts when the Oregon Health Policy Board met to set the direction for the future of health transformation and determine whether it should measure healthcare costs.

The Lund Report, December 4, 2015
by Jan Johnson

Oregon’s Health Policy Board appears divided over whether to measure healthcare costs, following a presentation by Rachel Block, a consultant with the Milbank Memorial Fund.

“As a board, at some point we need to have the conversation about how we spend billions every year on a health system that isn’t meeting our expectations,” said Felisa Hagins, political director for the Service Employees International Union, the state’s largest union with over 50,000 members, including healthcare workers. Hagins called healthcare costs a “crisis” for consumers, pointing out that such debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy.

But Dr. Joe Robertson, president of Oregon Health & Science University, took a different stance. “I’m not sure I care how much the citizens of Oregon spend on healthcare,” he said. “Healthcare is one of the few industries that’s growing jobs,” and Oregon gets economic value from such spending.

But wages are being held down by healthcare costs, said Brian DeVore, a business consultant and former director of healthcare ecosystem & strategy at Intel. “Driving healthcare costs to 60 percent of GDP is not the answer,” he said.

DeVore, who resigned from the board, gave some parting advice to colleagues, saying it was time to “stab some (sacred) cows.