Oregon's governor is among a select group of people invited to sit next to first lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address Tuesday in Washington, DC.
Gov. John Kitzhaber told Fox 12 by phone from his DC hotel room that the invitation came on Monday during a conversation of an Obama Administration official regarding Kitzhaber's healthcare and education reforms.
"It's a great honor for Oregon really and I think it really speaks to all the hard work we've done together primarily on the health care side of the equation," said Kitzhaber. "I think (the visibility) will be good for the state."
Kitzhaber was one of about two dozen special guests to sit in the first lady's box in the Capitol to hear President Barack Obama's remarks. Kitzhaber said he didn't know the exact reason he was invited but presumed his presence had to do with education or healthcare.
The Obama Administration has given Oregon $1.9 billion to help put Kitzhaber's Medicaid health reforms into practice.
Kitzhaber said 90 percent of the Oregon Medicaid population is now receiving care through coordinated care organizations - 15 of them have been set up over the past five months as part of his plan.
The governor said he is optimistic about how the centers are lowering costs by managing chronic diseases and preventing avoidable hospitalizations.
He's hoping to release data later this year about the progress and said this plan could be a model for other states.
"It's been a thorny issue and one where I believe we can reduce costs and improve people's health and save a lot of money that we can reinvest in things like public education," Kitzhaber said.
The governor plans to spend Wednesday on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers to advance his agenda.
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