A sudden aroma

Wow, here's one I didn't see coming. The new wiz kid running the Oregon health department, as one of her first acts on the job, has recused herself from being involved in one of the more important decisions that that agency has to make. It seems she's got a conflict of interest. At least, she thinks so.

Dr. Sejal Hathi started work Jan. 16 as Gov. Tina Kotek’s pick for director of the Oregon Health Authority, but by her own choice, she will sit out one of the biggest policy questions now facing OHA.

The question: whether to approve a pending merger between Portland-based CareOregon, which serves 500,000 Medicaid patients in the metro area, and SCAN Group, a Long Beach, Calif., Medicaid insurer that serves 285,000 patients....

Proponents had hoped the merger would be approved by now. Because it hasn’t been, the key recommendation by the market oversight office will be issued during the tenure of [Hathi].

That’s awkward because Hathi is a longtime friend of the CEO of SCAN Group, Sachin Jain. Both worked as federal employees in Washington, D.C., albeit at different times, and ran in circles with top aides affiliated with President Joe Biden or former President Barack Obama. Both have been described as thought leaders, appearing on national news outlets as commentators. On social media, Hathi has described Jain as among her “favorite people.”

And Hathi isn't the only one who's too close to the deal for comfort.

Similarly, Kotek’s top liaison to the Oregon Health Authority, Kristina Narayan, has also filed a notice of recusal, according to the governor’s spokesperson. That’s based on the former Kotek legislative aide's recent nine-month stint working for CareOregon as its vice president for public policy.

This being Oregon state government, all deals on the drawing boards automatically show up with a presumption of sketchiness. But on this one, with two red flags having been thrown up, it goes beyond the usual suspicions. You can't blame anyone for questioning whether everything's on the up and up.

There are good reasons to veto the proposed merger. 

On Dec. 6,... OHA’s Medicaid Advisory Committee released a memo saying that, based on the information the merger partners have provided so far, the health authority should “disapprove the SCAN/CareOregon transaction.” Among other concerns, the commission cited the potential loss of local control as a reason Oregonians should be wary.

But you have to wonder whether the Oregon bureaucrats making the decision – whoever they are – will really consider the con's when so many people in high places are so connected to the people who will make bank if it happens. So much for that brand new day in Salem.


  1. I have to give Hathi some credit here. She notified the Ethics Commission of the conflict before she started her job. Ethics told her it was fine, no problem, when they squinted enough they couldn't see a conflict of interest.

    Hathi disagreed and recused herself depsite the clearance. I don't imagine that went over well down in Salem.

  2. Medicaid, if anybody can do basic math, is completely unsustainable. But with multi-Trillion dollar deficits by the Fed creating money out of thin air, who gives a crap about fundamentals? So before it all collapses, the rush to the gravy train will continue with these types of "consolidations".

    1. Your comment regarding Medicaid is a common (but false) GOP talking point that isn’t true at all.

    2. Queue the classic in the Yasha Levine Victorville series:

      Sad, but also awesome bit of gonzo pieces, and can’t ever take away Levine & Mark Ames breaking the many astroturf bits from Koch & other dark money 08-09 after they got booted from Russia writing about the looting there to come back snd easily recognize it here…


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