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New Report: One-Third Do Without Health Insurance in OR

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009   

Portland, OR – About one in three Oregonians younger than age 65 has gone without health insurance for at least a portion of the last two years, according to a new report from Families USA, a national health care reform advocacy group. The group is releasing data by state to add momentum to the push for reform. In Oregon, most of the uninsured are working, and Families USA executive director Ron Pollack says their lack of insurance is not just a temporary situation.

"One of the significant things to understand about this is that the overwhelming majority of these 1.1 million Oregonians, 75.8 percent – more than three out of every four – were uninsured for at least six months."

Pollack says Oregon's uninsured figures are slightly higher than the national average. His group advocates making health insurance available to everyone in America – an idea that some see as giving too large a role for government to play, at the expense of private insurance companies.

Ellen Pinney, director of the Oregon Health Action Campaign, refers to it as "churning," when people move in and out of the health care system based on their inability to get – or to afford – insurance for months at a time.

"You don't have to scratch too hard at the data that Families USA has just released about our state to see that it proves that, more likely than not, one-third of Oregonians are churning. They do not have the ability to establish a relationship with a provider."

Pinney says the result is that people don't seek regular medical treatment, which ends up costing the state more. She believes the Oregon legislature will expand insurance coverage for the poor and enact some of the reforms suggested by the Oregon Health Care Board this year, despite the state budget crisis.

The report, "Americans at Risk," is online at www.familiesusa.org


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