Two stories of note from the Pacific Northwest in today’s Kaiser Health Policy Report.
First: Oregon will begin drawing names this week in a lottery to determine who will fill open slots in the Oregon Health Plan. More than 80,000 people have registered for the lottery since it opened in January, but only a few thousand slots are available. People selected will be eligible for a standard benefit program that provides coverage for basic health services, medications, and limited dental, hospital and vision care. The program is intended for people whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but who cannot afford private insurance.
In 1995, the program covered 132,000 Oregon residents, but the state closed the program to new applicants in 2004 because of budget cuts. The Oregon Department of Human Services estimates there are 600,000 uninsured residents. The Oregon Health Fund Board has been charged with developing a proposal to address health care access and coverage, which will be considered during the 2009 legislative session. Anna Richter Taylor, a spokesperson for Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D), said the governor considers the Oregon Health Plan as a basis for the proposal.