In Oregon Health Insurance is Truly a Gamble

An estimated 600,000 people in Oregon are uninsured, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services. The State once heralded the Oregan Health Plan, a standard benefit program for people not poor enough for Medicaid but too cash-strapped to buy their own insurance. At its peak in 1995, the plan covered 132,000. State budget cuts forced the program to close to newcomers by 2004. Barney Speight, director of the Oregon Health Fund Board says,

We have pretty much returned as a state, in terms the percentage of uninsured, to where we were in the late '80s when we created [the plan].
The board is to come up with a plan to address health care access and coverage for for consideration in the 2009 legislative session. Gov. Ted Kulongoski considers the Oregon Health Plan a basis to build on, said Anna Richter Taylor, a spokeswoman for his office.

It's a huge challenge for one session — it's probably going to be a sequential process.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Plan has several thousand openings and so, according to "Oregon Holds Health Insurance Lottery," the AP's Sarah Skidmore reports that the state will draw names this week from more than 80,000 who have registered since January for the chance to enroll.

Ellen Pinney, director of the Oregon Health Action Campaign, founded in 1985, told AP,

This is such a wonderful opportunity. We've heard absolutely no complaints, just a lot of hope that they are the ones who will be selected.

Shirley Krueger, 61, told AP she signed up the first day. Her part-time job leaves her ineligible for her employer's insurance plan and with too little income to buy her own and she's gone more than six months since she could afford to take insulin regularly for her diabetes, putting her at a higher rish for kidney failure, heart disease and blindness. She says,

It's better than nothing, it's at least a hope....I'm worried about it. I know it's a death sentence.