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One in 10 Oregonians Falls into Health Coverage Gap

Affordable vision insurance is one gap detailed in a new report about the challenges many Oregonians face in getting health coverage. Credit: TPSDave/pixabay.com
Affordable vision insurance is one gap detailed in a new report about the challenges many Oregonians face in getting health coverage. Credit: TPSDave/pixabay.com
November 18, 2015

SALEM, Ore. - The Affordable Care Act may have prompted more people to sign up for health insurance. But in Oregon, a new report says 383,000 residents remain uninsured. Some can't get coverage, and others can't pay for it.

The Oregon Health Equity Alliance is a coalition making 10 recommendations to state lawmakers to close the insurance gaps.

Joseph Santos-Lyons, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, said one of the largest gaps affects about 89,000 people who might look for coverage on the state health insurance exchange, but can't afford it.

"If you are the very lowest income levels for the exchange, right above Medicaid, you are twice as likely to go uninsured," said Santos-Lyons. "The out-of-pocket costs and the premiums are just too high, and with a high deductible of $2,000 to $5,000, folks just don't access care."

He added this group also includes 6,000 to 8,000 legal permanent residents of Oregon. Another 1,500 are from Compacts of Free Association (COFA) nations, under a treaty that allows some Pacific Islanders to live and work legally in the U.S. but bars them from receiving Medicaid.

According to the report, the lack of insurance falls disproportionately on people of color, with uninsured rates two and three times that of white Oregonians.

Another large group without health coverage is children of undocumented immigrants. In terms of public health, Karla Castaneda, leveraging-momentum coordinator with the Momentum Alliance, thinks that doesn't make sense.

"They attend school, they go to the parks and play," said Castaneda. "Basically, their health is what makes the community healthy. And we're not providing undocumented children health care. It's like, Oregon values kids, but we're not valuing undocumented children."

The "Mend the Gap" report also highlights the struggles of rural women to seek reproductive health services, the barriers to getting coverage for transgender people, and the lack of affordable dental and vision insurance throughout the state.

The coalition will back several bills in the next Legislature to address the gaps.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR