Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Wed, April 18 2012 at 4:45 PM, Updated: Wed, April 18 2012 at 4:57 PM
A Klamath County Commissioner claims she's a victim of arm-twisting by local health care providers, who want to be picked for a lucrative multi-million dollar contract.
Commissioner Cheryl Hukill says she met with officials from Cascade Comprehensive Care on March 8th...
"That's when the statement was made, that if I don't give the support to CCC, I will not like what I see in the headlines of the Herald and News."
Cascade shareholder and Sky Lakes Medical Center President Paul Stewart was at the meeting, and denies the allegation...
"It's clearly a misunderstanding, and a misrepresentation of the meeting - and it's unfortunate that it occurred."
The winner of the contract will handle Klamath County's medicare patients. Cascade Comprehensive has been lobbying hard for the county's recommendation, because there's a lot of money at stake...like 43 million dollars for standard medical coverage.
"The balance of it is mental health, and dental health, and adding those in takes it up to about 54 million dollars." Adds Paul Stewart.
Bill Guest of Cascade Comprehensive Care notes that Cascade is one of 4 companies hoping to be selected by the Oregon Health Authority...
"Not to get a letter of recommendation or support from the county would be a red flag to anybody at the state who is reviewing these, but they are not necessary."
Commissioner Hukill says she won't let the controversy factor in her decision...
"I'll have no hesitation. We will pick the one that will be best for Klamath County."
The Oregon Health Authority is expected to announce who they'll award the contract to by the end of June.
The Klamath County Commissioners will meet with the four companies vying for the contract next Tuesday. The commissioners will then make their recommendation to the Oregon Health Authority.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.
Lyle's job history is quite colorful. He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.
Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience. "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".
When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.