Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday detailed her support for the Cover All People bill, which was introduced this session at her request and would create a new state program to extend health care coverage to medically underserved people regardless of immigration status.
Brown said House Bill 2164, which is a product of her Racial Justice Council Health Equity Committee, would extend “high-quality coverage” to legal permanent residents, young adults who age out of the Cover All Kids program Oregon passed in 2019, DACA recipients and undocumented adults.
The program, which was 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.
Brown said all Oregonians must have quality, affordable health care, regardless of who they are or where they live.
“During my time as governor, we’ve made great strides in expanding access,” Brown said. “Currently, 94% of Oregonians and 100% of children have access to health care. The pandemic has taught us this is not good enough.”
Historically underserved minorities, particularly communities of color, have “paid the price,” Brown said, experiencing gaps in health care coverage that are disproportionately much higher than the general population.
“Everyone deserves access to health care,” Brown said. “It’s the right thing to do, the just thing to do. And, it’s smart economic policy.”
Cover All People will reduce health care costs in Oregon, Brown argued, by giving underserved families and residents access to preventive and primary health care. Expanding quality health care coverage is linked to individuals obtaining and maintaining employment, which benefits the economy, she said.
Health insurance coverage also reduces health care debt, which increases economic activity and productivity. The OHP has some of the lowest emergency department visit rates in the nation, the state says, which also lowers insurance rates and the cost of care.
Immigrant and refugee communities are the “backbone of our economy throughout the state,” Brown said.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
If passed, 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 could be expanded to serve even more residents who are currently uninsured.
The proposal, which is currently in the House Committee on Health Care, has been supported by doctors and other officials with the state’s leading health care organizations as well as advocacy and support groups like the Oregon Latino Health Coalition.
Said Jeremiah Rigby, chief of staff for CareOregon, which provides health care for 450,000 Oregonians: “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.”
“I have seen the tremendous benefits when parents are able to obtain access to care,” agreed 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.”
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