Friday, January 25, 2008

Do You Qualify??

If you or someone you know are uninsured and low income in Oregon there is a chance you might be able to get on the Oregon Health Plan. It's only a bandaid, but you might be able to get help...

To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Director

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
Edmund Burke

DHS is about to take a step that will make a life-changing difference in the lives of several thousand low-income Oregonians. Each of us should be prepared to play a role in that.

On Monday, we will open the reservation list for the Oregon Health Plan’s Standard benefit plan, which will lead to the first new enrollments in Standard since June 2004. From that reservation list, the names of several thousand people will be randomly selected to receive Standard applications.

Sadly, right now more than 600,000 individuals in Oregon are without health insurance, over 100,000 of those are individuals in severe poverty. At its peak, OHP Standard enrolled nearly 132,000 people.

We at DHS know all too well the consequences that individuals and families who are unable to get health care face and the painful fact that those without health insurance are sicker and die sooner. We also understand how this blemishes our collective community, our humanity, and our state. We know health care is among our state’s and our nation’s top public policy issues. But on a human level, we don’t need polling data to tell us the impact it has on the lives of real people.

Reopening OHP-Standard for the first time since June 2004 is supported by one of the most aggressive public awareness campaign in this agency’s history. We’ve contacted hundreds of thousands of organizations, partners and households, printed thousands of brochures in 10 languages and taken our story to the news media.

Because the need for health care is so much larger than the available slots in OHP Standard, we’ve worked hard with our community partners to ensure the enrollment system is fair – that the individual in Scappoose, Shady Cove or Spray has the same chance to enroll as someone in Salem. That the last person to put her name on the reservation list on Feb. 29 will have the same odds of receiving an application as someone who signs up this Monday.

But the success of this effort isn’t limited to our hard-working employees who will be taking names for the reservation list. Every one of us at DHS should be familiar with the process so we can help people who ask us questions. I’m not asking you to memorize the 1-800-699-9075 toll-free phone number, although that would be nice. But you should at least know how to find contact information posted at the top of the DHS Web page (

True, one could argue that only a few people will ultimately be enrolled compared with the heavy demand. But see the Edmund Burke quote at the top of my message. For the several thousand people who are enrolled, it will make a difference in their lives.

Meanwhile, The Oregon Health Fund Board, ( born out of Senate Bill 329, is working hard to develop a comprehensive plan to reform Oregon’s health care system. They are making progress in designing the path that moves us rapidly toward being a state in which affordable and effective health care is available and accessible to all.

While we await that plan, which cannot come too quickly, we must still do all we can to help people get the health care that they need. Because DHS employees live and work in both our urban and rural areas, you are in a good position to spread the word about OHP Standard to people in your neighborhood, children’s school, a service club, faith community or other setting.

As an agency, we will show how well we can handle an unusually complex process to enroll people fairly in a high-demand program whose enrollment is capped. As individuals, each of us can do our part to reach out to as many Oregonians as we can.

Thank you for your energy and commitment to serving Oregonians.

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