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Groups Congratulate Leaders in Salem for Health Care Laws

Gov. Kate Brown holds a ceremonial signing today of House Bill 4017, which helps Oregon residents who are Pacific Islanders gain access to health care. (Pixabay)
Gov. Kate Brown holds a ceremonial signing today of House Bill 4017, which helps Oregon residents who are Pacific Islanders gain access to health care. (Pixabay)
May 24, 2016

SALEM, Ore. - Groups promoting equity in health care in the state are gathering today on the Capitol steps to recognize lawmakers who expanded care for Oregonians.

The Oregon Health Equity Alliance is bringing together community leaders, lawmakers, and the governor to celebrate legislation passed this year.

Kristina Narayan, policy and research coordinator for the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), speaks at the event about the passage of what is known as the Compact of Free Association (COFA) bill, which gives health-care access to low-income Pacific Islanders.

"The COFA Premium Assistance Program is something that can offer direct coverage to a community that has been without for nearly 20 years," says Narayan.

APANO worked with the COFA Alliance National Network to introduce the bill. It was designed to serve Oregon residents from the COFA nations of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

The group will present an award to state Rep. Andy Olson (R-Albany), who played a key role in the bill's unanimous passage.

Gov. Kate Brown will hold a ceremonial signing of the bill after the rally.

Residents of COFA countries are allowed to resettle in the United States because of the military testing of nuclear weapons near their home islands during the Cold War. Oregon has the third-largest such population in the nation.

Narayan says this group has specific health needs as a result of the nuclear testing.

"When we look at the COFA population in particular, there's one of the highest rates of stroke and heart disease, and blood disorders, and illnesses that are associated with high doses of radiation," she says.

Rally participants will also recognize passage of House Bill 4017, which opened Oregon's health-care exchange to legal immigrants.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR