Insurance plan

Oregon embarks on ‘bridge’ health insurance plan for people facing sunset from Medicaid expansion

Oregonians who earn a little too much to qualify for Medicaid could benefit from a new government health insurance plan, following a bill passed in the final days of this winter’s legislative session. .

The bill creates a task force to look at options for creating a so-called “bridge plan.”

It would provide basic medical and dental coverage to people opted out of Oregon’s health plan – the state’s Medicaid program – when their incomes increase.

In front of the House of Representatives at the Oregon State Capitol on May 18, 2021 in Salem, Oregon.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff/OPB

In Oregon, Medicaid is available to adults who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level and pregnant women who make up to 185% of the federal poverty level.

The bridge plan would be for people earning between 138% and 200% of the poverty line.

This includes people earning around $19,000 to $27,000 per year, such as cashiers, construction workers, or Oregonians who may be employed part-time.

The Oregon Health Authority says people at this income level tend to sign up and turn off health insurance frequently because some years they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but still don’t have insurance provided. by the employer.

For this population, the bridge plan would be an alternative — or potentially a replacement — to buying insurance in the private market established by the Affordable Care Act and attempting to qualify for reimbursement.

During the pandemic, as part of the federal public health emergency, the federal government halted the process of removing people from Medicaid if their income changed or they were otherwise disqualified. States received additional funding from Medicaid to cover costs.

This expansion during the pandemic has led to record numbers of people being insured – OHP membership has grown from just over 1.1 million members before the pandemic to 1.4 million today.

Oregon health officials want the bridge plan in place before it has to start kicking people out of Medicaid again when federal pandemic relief funds run out, so the project bill sets an aggressive timeline for developing a proposal.

The working group is due to hold its first meeting by March 31.

Its proposal is expected to be complete by September 1, 2022, at the latest.

In the House, three Republicans joined the Democratic majority and voted for the bridge plan bill: Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg; Rep. James Hieb, R-Salem; and Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner.

In the Senate, he followed party lines.

The idea of ​​the transition plan has been supported by unions and a number of physician advocacy groups.

Some health insurance providers have warned that creating a bridging plan could undermine the existing private health insurance market.