"Everyone deserves access to health care. It’s the right thing to do, the just thing to do. And, it’s smart economic policy.”
Salem, OR—Governor Kate Brown today detailed her support for House Bill 2164,
Cover All People, in a hearing of the House Committee on Health Care. The bill, a product of the collaborative work of the Governor’s Racial Justice Council Health Equity Committee, would allow the Oregon Health Authority to create a state-based program to provide high-quality coverage for medically-underserved people, regardless of their immigration status––including legal permanent residents, young adults who age out of Oregon’s Cover All Kids program, DACA recipients, and undocumented adults. The program, modeled on the Oregon Health Plan, would focus on serving parents who have children or dependents in the Cover All Kids program as a minimum first step.
“All Oregonians must have quality, affordable health care, regardless of who they are or where they live,” said Governor Brown. “During my time as Governor, we’ve made great strides in expanding access. Currently, 94 percent of Oregonians and 100 percent of children have access to health care. The pandemic has taught us this is not good enough. And unfortunately, our communities of color have paid the price. Gaps in coverage persist, and these gaps are disproportionately borne by communities of color.
“Everyone deserves access to health care. It’s the right thing to do, the just thing to do. And, it’s smart economic policy.”
By providing families with health coverage, giving them access to preventive and primary health care, Cover All People will reduce health care costs in Oregon. On average, states that expand health coverage have outpaced other states in terms of job growth. Expanding quality health care coverage is linked to individuals obtaining and maintaining employment, benefiting the economy. Health insurance coverage also reduces individual debt, increasing economic activity and productivity. The Oregon Health Plan, after which Cover All People will be modeled, has some of the lowest Emergency Department visit rates in the nation, resulting in better health care and lower costs. Expansion of health care for adults with low incomes has also been associated with increases in preventive care for their children.
Continued Governor Brown: “In communities urban and rural, west of the Cascades and east, our immigrant and refugee communities are the backbone of our economy throughout the state. Across agriculture, manufacturing, the service sector, and our health care system, frontline workers from our immigrant and refugee communities have gone to work every day during the pandemic to very literally keep our society going. Many of them worked through wildfires and breathed harmful smoke.
“The very least we can do in a just society, is to make sure they have access to this basic human right.”
The initial program would cover up to 2,000 adults with $10 million in funding in the Governor’s Recommended Budget, though investment in the program can be expanded to serve more currently uninsured Oregonians.
"Race, ethnicity, income level or immigration status should never affect someone’s ability to access insurance or improve their health," said Bahaa Wanly, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Officer at Salem Health. "Building equity in health care is important to Salem Health because it is right thing to do and because it is important to the communities we serve. In fact, more than one quarter of Marion County, part of our primary service area, is Latino. We recognize that many in these communities have not had the same access to care as others or the same health outcomes. Cover All People is an important part of addressing that problem."
"We are excited to see such high interest in Cover All People. If passed, Cover All People would ensure more of Oregon’s 'essential workers' have access to the health care that every Oregonian deserves," said Olivia Quiroz, Executive Director of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition. "The Latinx community and other BIPOC groups have been disproportionately impacted by COVID and the time is now to provide health care coverage to all. This bill is good for our community, the right thing to do for Oregon’s communities of color, and great for our economy."
"CareOregon provides 450,000 Oregonians with health care through 3 coordinated care organizations, so we have first hand experience with the benefits of community based, coordinated care," said Jeremiah Rigsby, Chief of Staff for CareOregon. "We support Cover All People because it would provide more Oregonians with access to the right care at the right time, while addressing the needs of populations that are often excluded from our health care system."
“For my patients, not having health care coverage often means having to choose between a preventive test or paying the rent, it means rationing medications or sometimes going without, and it means delaying care for chronic conditions,”said Dr. Eva Galvez of Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation. “This bill is about more than just reducing health care costs and financial strain on families, it is about removing barriers so that families can lead productive lives.”
“I have seen the tremendous benefits when parents are able to obtain access to care," said Dr. Anna Pierzchala of Kaiser Permanente. "We have good evidence that, when parents are insured, their children are much more likely be enrolled in insurance and more likely to receive their annual preventive healthcare visits. Children with healthy parents are likely to lead healthier lives.”
The Governor’s full prepared remarks are available here.
The hearing of the House Committee on Health Care is available here.