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Got Health Care?

OPB | May 8, 2008 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:41 p.m.

In January, we did a show about the Oregon Health Plan. After freezing enrollment in 2002, the OHP opened up 5,000 spots in the state-sponsored health insurance plan. But even with the additional spots, the State Medicaid Office still estimates that Oregon has approximately 455,000 uninsured adults.

This large number has lead politicians to start working on some big picture changes to the way people in this state access insurance. Last year, the legislature created the Oregon Health Trust Board. This seven-member board was tasked with proposing changes to the current system.

To come up with those proposals they’re conducting a series of 14 “Health Conversations” with people around the state. This week they’re in Newport and Astoria.

Tomorrow on Think Out Loud we’ll discuss some of the scenarios being hashed out around the state at these Health Conversations. They’re designed to get a sense of what people generally want out of health care. Here are two scenarios:

Felicia Ward and Andrea Foley are single mothers of young children. They both work full-time as housekeepers in different motels at the coast. According to a new law, their income level is low enough to qualify them for full state subsidy to pay for private health insurance for themselves and their children. Because of Oregon’s health reform, both Felicia and Andrea now have health insurance for themselves and their children.

Is this the kind of change you would like to see in Oregon’s future health care system? How important is it for everyone to have access to affordable health insurance? Should the state subsidize private health insurance for those who can?t afford it? Is it feasible? Or is it even the state?s responsibility at all?

Here is the second scenario:

Albert Haley owns a small vineyard that relies heavily on immigrant workers. A new state law requires him to offer his workers health insurance or pay into a state pool where they can buy health insurance individually. Albert doesn’t much like the requirement, but he likes having a choice. He doesn’t want to shop around for health insurance. Paying into the pool works for him. But he’s not sure the arrangement will really help all of his workers. A lot of them can’t afford to pay the premiums and he heard that immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years aren’t eligible for public subsidies.

Will a separate insurance pool benefit small businesses? Large businesses? Should the US be providing health care for immigrant workers?

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