Leading the Model for Change: Shaping the Path to Universal Primary Care for Oregon
In her career as a registered nurse in Oregon, Jessica Hensley MPH’20 has spent a lot of time in an outreach/advocacy role to help coordinate care for patients. When she worked as an RN complex care manager at a federally qualified health center clinic in downtown Portland that served primarily homeless and low-to-no-income patients, she saw firsthand the barriers they face to getting the care they need. It drives why she is passionate about promoting access to equitable healthcare both in Oregon and nationally.
“I knew going into my practicum search that my number one choice was to participate in healthcare policymaking and advocacy at the state level,” says Hensley. “Thinking it may be a ’stretch’ goal, I cold emailed my district’s House Representative. He then connected me with one of his colleagues, Representative Rachel Prusak, who sits as a member on the House Committee on Health Care.”
The timing was ideal for Rep. Prusak – a nurse practitioner herself – who had just written a bill requesting a task force to study Primary Care Trust (PCT) policy within Oregon. PCT is a payment model designed to achieve state-based universal coverage for primary care services. It would stabilize and streamline payment for primary care services by consolidating all the existing primary care funding sources into one place.
Prusak’s team invited Hensley to join their efforts to advance this legislation. As part of her practicum work, she researched and compiled a report examining Oregon’s contextual considerations for a PCT policy approach. She analyzed County Health Rankings data and found that life expectancy is higher and self-reported health status is better for Oregonians with enhanced access to primary care. She also conducted a financial analysis and business case for piloting PCT policy in Oregon with promising results.
The impact of Hensley’s work is growing. Last June, Hensley was asked to testify for the House Committee on Health Care regarding the national context of other states that have also explored PCT policy. Beginning in March 2020, she will be initiating work with Oregon’s Access to Primary Care legislative work group and traveling to the state capitol regularly for the meetings. This legislative work group will develop policy proposals to advance Oregon towards universal access to comprehensive primary care.
My biggest takeaway from the MPH program is a sense of empowerment—believing that I have the tools, knowledge, and skillset to truly make positive impacts on health and healthcare within my community and state. I look at system-level problems around me with a new lens now: How could we measure this? Who do we need at the table? What positive changes can we create?
POSTED 2/10/2020 AT 12:11 PM IN #practicum
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