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New OR Health Insurance Exchange to Cover More Kids

November 5, 2009

SALEM, Ore. - By January, more Oregon parents will have access to affordable health insurance for their children. Five companies have agreed to offer the private coverage, and the state will help some families pay for it on a sliding scale based on their income. Called "Healthy Kids Connect," this program intends to insure kids whose parents can't afford - or no longer have - coverage through their employment.

According to Cathy Kaufmann, who heads the state's new Office of Healthy Kids, in the long term the program also should save the state money.

"When children don't have health coverage, they end up seeking care in the emergency room. Not only is that care often coming too late, but it's incredibly expensive - and those of us with insurance pick up the cost of that care."

Very low-income children in Oregon already can sign up for health coverage, and Kaufmann says up to 35,000 more children should be covered when the new, private insurance exchange begins in January.

The need for childhood insurance coverage in Oregon and nationwide was underscored this week by the release of a study of hospital records in 37 states. The Johns Hopkins Children's Center reported that uninsured children were 60 percent more likely to die after being admitted to a hospital than their peers who had health insurance.

The lead author, Dr. Fizan Abdullah, says the study should have major policy implications in the health care reform debate.

"Analyzing the hospitalizations of 23 million children over 18 years, during the period of the study children who did not have insurance were 1.6 times as likely to die as children who were insured."

Abdullah, a pediatric surgeon, says the difference might be explained by the same issues that also affect adults without insurance: They get less preventive care and delay seeing a doctor until a medical problem becomes a crisis.

One of the sticking points in the health care debate in Congress has been how to pay for covering more people, of all ages.

More information about the study is available at Information about the Oregon program and an application form are online at or by calling toll-free 1-877-314-5678.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR