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Salem, OR—Oregon’s uninsured rate dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, placing Oregon among the top tier of states with the highest percentage of residents with health care coverage, according to new national data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Since 2010, Oregon has improved its position from 37th in the nation to 19th in the ranking of states with the highest percentages of residents who have health insurance.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), the uninsurance rate for Oregon is 7 percent, down from 9.7 percent in 2014. The national uninsured average rate is 9.4 percent. Today, 3.71 million Oregonians have health insurance, a record number according to the ACS report.

The new federal survey is consistent with state data, which has also shown increasing rates of coverage. Under the Oregon Health Insurance Survey (OHIS), the percentage of Oregonians who are able to access care through health insurance jumped to 95 percent in 2015, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points from when the survey was last completed in 2013. (The ACS and OHIS report slightly different insurance coverage rates due to differences in methodology.)

“When people have health insurance they receive better and more comprehensive care, which helps hold down costs for everyone,” said Lynne Saxton, Director of the Oregon Health Authority. “Oregon has made important gains in coverage that are improving the health and well-being of Oregonians and their families. When people have health insurance it increases their ability to have productive working lives and to complete their education.”

Medicaid expansion and insurance market produce gains in health care coverage

Oregon’s improvements follow the state’s decision to expand coverage under the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) to individuals and families who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), as permitted by the federal Affordable Care Act. Oregon is one of 32 states nationwide to expand Medicaid coverage.

The expansion of health care occurred in conjunction with the state’s health transformation initiative. Over the past three years, more than 400,000 people were added to the Oregon Health Plan, which now covers one in four Oregonians. According to data collected by independent researchers, there is at least one full-time working person among most families with OHP coverage.

A recent report to the Oregon Legislature found the state’s health reform efforts have increased health coverage, improved outcomes and contained health care costs in the state’s Medicaid program. The new report was presented two weeks ago at a meeting of the Oregon Health Policy Board. Research has shown that expansion of coverage reduces premiums in commercial coverage and lowers the cost of charity care for hospitals.

While expanded Medicaid coverage drove much of Oregon’s gains, the added benefits of tax credits and subsidies through the insurance exchange market made coverage more affordable, helping more state residents obtain coverage. As of the first quarter of 2016, nearly 132,000 Oregonians were enrolled in individual coverage on the marketplace, with about 95,000 of those consumers receiving financial help.

“With financial help and other reforms, more and more Oregonians are able to access health insurance coverage for themselves and their families,” said Patrick Allen, director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services. “We are encouraged by this success, but we know work must continue to improve affordability and ensure a sustainable market.”

Changes in insurance coverage

The Oregon Health Insurance Survey found some significant changes in patterns of coverage in Oregon. In 2015:
•The uninsured rate for adults 18-34 was cut in half to less than 20 percent, from above 40 percent in 2011.
•The uninsured rate for adults 35-64 dropped nearly 15 percentage points to just over 10 percent, from a high of 25 percent in 2011.
•Approximately 3.64million Oregonians had insurance, while 204,000 Oregonians continued to lack coverage.

Oregon uses the OHIS because it includes more detailed information on demographics, access, utilization, cost of care and health status, and better represents minority groups in the state. Oregon uses the ACS date to compare with other states and the national average.

“While Oregon has made important strides in expanding coverage we have more work to do to ensure we maintain our gains and continue to improve both quality and access to care in Oregon’s health system,” OHA Director Saxton said. “We need to create a path to financial sustainability for Medicaid.”

Bill Wright, director of the Center for Research and Education, said, “Through the Oregon Health Study, we now have strong evidence that when uninsured persons gain Medicaid, they see significant improvements in their ability to access care. They are also far more likely to get important preventive screenings and services and experience dramatically less financial strain and debt due to medical issues. We’ve also seen evidence that acquiring insurance significantly reduces depression and improves subjective health and well-being.”

Media availability

Reporters interested in learning more can join a conference call from 11:30 a.m. to noon today with Berri Leslie, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, and Jon Collins, Director of Health Analytics at Oregon Health Authority. To participate, dial 1-877-873-8017, access code 8257371

Mobile friendly: Participant: 877-873-8017,8257371#

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Media contact:
Robb Cowie
OHA communications director 503-421-7684

Additional contacts:
Lisa Morawski
Department of Consumer and Business Services 503-510-5576

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