Oregon has been experiencing problems with its health insurance exchange, however they have still managed to enroll 10% of their uninsured citizens for their expanded Medicaid program in the last two weeks.
Many of these people have existing health problems for which they were either receiving no treatment or insufficient treatment. In a survey conducted among 38,000 people on the waiting list for Oregon Health Plan in 2012, it was determined that 11% had diabetes, 8% heart problems, 30% had high blood pressure, 22% had high cholesterol and 5% had cancer.
This accomplishment in spite of problems with the exchange comes as the result of a “fast track” plan which the state had submitted to the federal government last summer and which was approved in August to bypass the problem.
Under the plan, those who are already receiving SNAP benefits are prequalified based on the household income already reported on the SNAP application for the expansion program which raises the allowable income levels to qualify for Medicaid from 100% of poverty level to 138% and no longer considers savings or property in calculating eligibility. All these people have to do is to make a phone call or submit a form consenting to be enrolled.
Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) said in a statement, “This is tremendous news for the thousands of Oregonians anxious to get access to quality, affordable health care. We still have a ways to go, but in reducing our uninsured rate by 10 percent in just two weeks, we’re showing what’s possible when a state is committed to fundamentally changing the health care system to provide better access, better health and lower costs.”
Oregon had originally intended to use the same exchange which will be used to give residents access to the marketplace for health insurance policies through commercial insurance companies. But when it became clear that there were technical problems with the system, they asked that they be allowed to use this “fast track” system for those who were already known to be qualified for Medicaid.
Not all states will see such dramatic reductions this quickly, mainly due to their refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion option. Many in those states will not qualify for subsidies under the law because their income is too low — while still being too high to qualify for Medicaid under the current standards which will remain in place in those states.
Oregon should stand as an example to the nation of what can be accomplished when the state government puts the needs of its citizens ahead of partisan politics.
Watch more on the expansion of Medicaid in the video below: