Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest is a nonprofit health plan and provider of care to medical members and dental members in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Headquartered in Portland, we are one of the largest private employers in Oregon and a leading voice with health care policy decision makers. We offer our perspective on policy debates and engage the public in these important issues to help us pursue our organization’s mission — to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and communities.
Our history in the Pacific Northwest began when Henry J. Kaiser and Sidney R. Garfield, MD, partnered to provide workers and their families with health care during the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in northeastern Washington in the 1930s, and during WWII shipbuilding at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington. With the closing of the shipyards in 1945, enrollment in our health plan was opened to the community.
Kaiser Permanente remains focused on expanding the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations and safely providing testing, treatment, and care for patients. We are also focused on urgent policy efforts to preserve care and coverage amid economic challenges. During the pandemic, Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest also awarded a total of $700,000 in grants to 7 organizations to support homeless services as temperatures dropped and flu season arrived.
In addition, we are expanding longstanding commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and new efforts to end systemic racism in our communities. Communities of color, and especially Black communities, are disproportionately impacted by a continuing dearth of economic opportunity rooted in a history of legalized segregation and discriminatory lending practices. This has resulted in widespread, sustained financial strain that creates multiple barriers to good health. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues. During the pandemic, Kaiser Permanente committed $60 million in joint investments and $40 million in grant funding to help address these issues. And in fall of 2020, Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest announced local investments in Black-owned businesses and nonprofits, including rapid-response grants, business loans, and professional development.
Helping people thrive is core to our mission. We do so in a variety of ways in Oregon and southwest Washington, including promoting economic opportunity; doing our part to end systemic racism; ensuring that all people can have access to a safe and stable home; and improving health for students, staff, and teachers through our Thriving Schools program.
Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to expanding access to mental health and addiction medicine services for all. During the pandemic, members’ use of telehealth for mental health visits soared to 96% of all visits and has since remained steady at 80%. We are finding that our members appreciate the telehealth option and in many cases prefer a virtual visit over traveling to an office. Kaiser Permanente will continue to explore how telehealth services can enhance our efforts to expand mental health access and convenience for our members.
Kaiser Permanente has long been recognized as a leader in providing high-quality pharmaceutical therapy and comprehensive drug coverage. As a result, we see firsthand how prescription drug prices are increasing at unsustainable rates, driving up the cost of care and coverage. We continue to work to increase transparency and accountability of pharmaceutical manufacturers to lower costs of prescription medicines. We know these are important steps, but they are not enough. Kaiser Permanente will continue to advocate for sound public policy to rein in drug prices.
At the heart of Kaiser Permanente’s mission is the belief that all people deserve access to high-quality, affordable health care. We are committed to achieving our mission by building on our country’s progress over the past decade to expand access to health care and coverage to more people than ever before.
Kaiser Permanente supports a model of care that aligns physicians and health plans to drive coordination wherever patients receive care. This model rewards quality clinical outcomes instead of encouraging unnecessary and often extremely expensive treatments. We support innovation and new ways to access care, for example through temporary state and federal waivers to explore hospital-at-home care and expanded telehealth services.
Kaiser Permanente took a strong stand to protect the health and safety of all Oregonians by supporting Yes on Measure 108 in the November 3, 2020, general election.
We are all impacted by nicotine and tobacco use. Oregonians pay $1.5 billion per year for smoking-caused health care costs while Big Tobacco profits. Taxing vaping devices and tobacco is a proven approach to reduce smoking and vaping and keep people from starting in the first place, which reduces costs to the health care system and saves lives.
Measure 108 will help prevent nearly 12,000 unnecessary and premature deaths each year, will protect health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Oregonians, and will reduce tobacco use. Revenues from the measure must be used for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and to fund the Oregon Health Plan. During the state’s COVID-19 crisis, protecting the health of Oregonians is more important than ever.
Kaiser Permanente’s presence throughout Oregon and southwest Washington positively impacts the lives of many more people than just our members, physicians, and employees. Through our care, hospitals, medical and dental buildings, and community investment, we are a major contributor to the Northwest economy. Kaiser Permanente’s contributions include:
Kaiser Permanente’s award-winning integrated model of care and coverage allows our physicians to coordinate care with our hospitals, specialists, and other services, so they are all working together to keep patients healthy and provide the best care when it’s needed. With health care, pharmacy, vision, lab, and other services provided seamlessly together, our model ensures convenience and affordability. It’s why we’re among the highest-ranked health plans in the Northwest.