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No More Lottery for OR Health Plan Coverage

PHOTO: About 300,000 Oregonians, many of whom used to have to sign up for a lottery-style drawing for health insurance, will be eligible for Oregon Health Plan coverage starting in January. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: About 300,000 Oregonians, many of whom used to have to sign up for a lottery-style drawing for health insurance, will be eligible for Oregon Health Plan coverage starting in January. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
December 26, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - Many Oregon adults who were uninsured and living near the poverty line used to have to sign a waiting list of thousands of names, and hope they were selected in a lottery-style drawing for health insurance. For them, the new year brings big changes.

Oregon is one of 26 states expanding its Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid coverage is known as the Oregon Health Plan, and up to 300,000 more people are now eligible for the coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

The lottery days are gone, says Erin Fair Taylor, director of Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) Partnership and Development for CareOregon.

"In essence, anyone who would have been income-eligible to enroll under the lottery program will now automatically be eligible to enroll in the Oregon Health Plan," explains Taylor. "There's no need for the lottery anymore, which is pretty exciting."

She adds the Oregon Health Plan expansion hasn't been plagued with the same problems as other parts of the state's healthcare reform rollout. The Department of Human Services pre-qualified many low-income individuals and families, and informed them of the expansion. More than 100,000 have responded by signing up.

Of course, the challenge to having more people with health insurance is the potential shortage of health care providers. Taylor says CareOregon and its partner CCOs anticipated this. In places like Jackson County, where one in four residents is Medicaid-eligible, they're working to convince more doctors and dentists to accept Medicaid. They're also working to make it possible for those who do, to see more patients.

"Whether it's helping them recruit additional providers, or helping them with some technology, or even in some cases, new office space or buildings, those kinds of things," says Taylor. "So, we're trying to take a creative approach, recognizing there isn't a one-size-fits-all to this, and that each community really has unique needs."

She notes there is no deadline for signing up for the Oregon Health Plan. Anyone whose income is at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level is eligible, which equates to an annual income of about $32,000 a year for a family of four.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR