HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oregon's Financial Woes and Health Care Access

The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog reports on the sad state of affairs concerning health care access.  It points to a recent Oregon decision to ration health care by lottery.  The Associated Press report describes the lottery in more detail.  It states,

Oregon is conducting a one-of-a-kind lottery, and the prize is health insurance. The state will start drawing names this week for the chance to enroll in a health care program designed for people not poor enough for Medicaid but too cash-strapped to buy their own insurance.

More than 80,000 people have signed up since registration for the lottery opened in January. Only a few thousand will be chosen for the program. "It's better than nothing, it's at least a hope," said Shirley Krueger, 61, who signed up the first day.  It's been more than six months since she could afford to take insulin regularly for her diabetes. That puts her at higher risk for a number of complications, such as kidney failure, heart disease and blindness. Her part-time job leaves her ineligible for her employer's insurance plan and with too little income to buy her own. "I'm worried about it. I know it's a death sentence," Krueger said.

An estimated 600,000 people in Oregon are uninsured, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services.  Those selected in the lottery will be eligible for a standard benefit program, which was once a heralded highlight of the Oregon Health Plan.  At its peak in 1995, the program covered 132,000 Oregonians. State budget cuts forced the program to close to newcomers by 2004, but it now has several thousand openings. The program covers their most basic health services, medications and limited dental, hospital and vision services at little or no cost. . . .

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