It’s Time to Provide Everyone With Affordable Health Insurance

Affordable Health Insurance: Legislators who support universal access to quality, affordable healthcare at a reasonable cost won big in Oregon’s midterm elections this month, and voters approved Measure 111.

Where do regular folks like you and me go from here? What does that imply for us?

It’s Time to Provide Everyone With Affordable Health Insurance

Increasing access to health insurance for low-income individuals is already underway in Oregon. Up to 300,000 Oregonians may lose Medicaid coverage once the federal public health emergency declaration is no longer in effect.

People whose incomes are between 200% of the federal poverty level (which is $27,180 for an individual and $55,500 for a family of four) and Medicaid eligibility levels have been the focus of a task force established by the state legislature last year to create a Basic Health Program to assist them in obtaining insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange.

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People could transition from Medicaid to private health insurance with the help of the Basic Health Program. It would be an affordable health insurance plan with coverage and quality criteria comparable to those of the Oregon Health Plan or Oregon’s Medicaid program.

To reduce the number of people who repeatedly enroll and then leave Oregon’s Medicaid program, the state’s Medicaid insurers, the coordinated care organizations, will provide the plan. This will ensure that patients may continue seeing their current doctors.

It's Time to Provide Everyone With Affordable Health Insurance
It’s Time to Provide Everyone With Affordable Health Insurance

Reliable health insurance and ongoing care are especially important for those undergoing treatment or living with a chronic condition. For low-income working families in Oregon who go in and out of health insurance coverage due to annual fluctuations in income, the new Basic Health Program will provide much-needed stability.

However, what about those who earn more than the threshold but still cannot afford health insurance?

More than half of Oregonians who filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2019 cited medical bills as a major financial hardship. Nearly 40% of Oregonians said they have avoided or postponed necessary medical care or medication owing to high costs. In Oregon, people of all economic levels struggle with the high expense of medical care.

The Basic Health Program is currently being worked on by a group of organizations, medical experts, and local companies with the goal of making health insurance available to all people who do not have it. Oregonians who cannot afford health insurance at present costs urgently require the implementation of this statewide “bridge plan” expansion, which would serve as a public option for everybody.

Being a business owner who has had subpar health coverage in the past makes this a subject close to my heart. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I was able to get excellent health insurance after I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at stage 4 five years ago.

The six months of chemotherapy and the one month of radiation treatment that put me into remission were covered by my insurance. Unfortunately, I did not meet the criteria for premium assistance at that time, so it was a struggle to maintain that coverage, especially considering the hundreds of dollars in copays and other charges I would incur before reaching my annual out-of-pocket maximum.

I required hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of care to keep alive, so going without insurance or with garbage coverage wasn’t an option.

In Oregon, many working individuals struggle to pay for insurance and medical care, even if they are healthy enough to do so. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Oregon who rely on them to help them cope with chronic illnesses and emergency medical situations, and who would suffer greatly or perhaps die if they couldn’t get the treatment they need.

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As required by Measure 111 and as the moral thing to do, we must press on with our efforts to provide health insurance to all residents of Oregon at an affordable price. In next year’s legislative session, let’s start with a robust Basic Health Plan, and seek to expand this low-cost plan to every Oregonian who needs it.

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