Dana Hittle has been appointed permanent director of the Oregon Health Authority's Medicaid program, which serves nearly 1.5 million Oregonians. (Oregon Health Authority)
Dana Hittle has secured a role in Gov. Tina Kotek’s administration as the permanent Medicaid director at the Oregon Health Authority.
Hittle has been the interim Medicaid director for the last two years, leading a system – also called the Oregon Health Plan – that provides free health care coverage to nearly 1.5 million low-income Oregonians, or about one in three residents.
Hittle’s career spans more than 22 years with the health authority and Oregon Department of Human Services.
Her appointment, announced Thursday, comes in the midst of a transition for the Oregon Health Plan that will impact who gets covered – and who loses their coverage. In April, the Oregon Health Authority will start to examine Medicaid rolls to determine who still meets the low income requirements.
That work is unfolding across the nation. When the pandemic started in 2020, the federal government gave enhanced Medicaid benefits to states that kept people enrolled in the program regardless even if their income rose. Oregon’s Medicaid enrollment increased by hundreds of thousands.
Hittle oversaw much of the expansion, and now she will manage a reduction in those receiving benefits. Medicaid covers health, behavioral health, dental and visual treatment.
To qualify, residents can earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level. For a single person, that’s a gross salary of up to $18,075 a year, or a maximum of $36,908 a year for a family of four. The Oregon Health Authority, which manages the Oregon Health Plan, expects that 300,000 people who earn more than the ceiling will no longer qualify. But up to 65,000 of them are likely to retain insurance.
The Oregon Health Authority is seeking a waiver with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to increase the income ceiling to 200% of the federal poverty level during the redetermination process. If the agency approves, a single person earning $29,160 a year or a family of four earning $60,000 annually will still qualify for Oregon Health Plan benefits. That new income ceiling is expected to start April 1, the same day that redeterminations will begin.
The Medicaid budget is $22.6 billion for the current two-year budget cycle, and nearly three-quarters of it is paid by the federal government.
The Oregon Health Authority is also implementing its new Medicaid waiver, which will provide coverage for short-term housing benefits and nutrition support.
“Especially with all of the challenges Oregonians have faced over the last few years, I’m really focused on how we can implement programs that extend health-related supports to those in need,” Hittle said in a statement. “I’m honored to work in this role and to serve the state.”
Hittle’s boss will be interim James Schroeder, the interim health authority director. Kotek hired Schroeder to lead the health authority, and he replaced Patrick Allen.
“At a time when we’re working hard to protect and expand health coverage in Oregon, it’s paramount that OHA has an experienced leader like Dana to successfully guide our state’s Medicaid initiatives,” Schroeder said in a statement. “I look forward to working with her on the transformative projects we have ahead of us.”
The agency did not immediately respond to a question about her salary.
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