state health

300,000 Oregonians at risk of losing state health insurance. Here’s why.

An estimated 300,000 Oregonians could lose state health insurance in the next 16 months because they no longer qualify for state coverage made more widely available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All approximately 1.5 million people receiving coverage through the state will soon need to be financially eligible for the program to keep their state health insurance, following a three-year federal reprieve from normal requirements due to the pandemic.

That reprieve is soon coming to an end, giving state officials just over a year to make sure everyone who qualifies for coverage keeps it.

“Our real goal is to make sure that we preserve all the benefits that we can,” interim Oregon Health Authority director James Schroeder said in a presentation to lawmakers Tuesday. “But at the end of the day, people are either going to be eligible or not.”

Under federal rules put in place soon after the pandemic started, Oregonians did not have to prove financial hardship or work status in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage, which in Oregon is called the Oregon Health Plan. Coverage expanded dramatically in the last three years, from about 1,080,000 Oregonians before the pandemic to about 1,470,000 today, according to state data.

But on April 1, Oregon will start a 14-month process to verify that people do not make too much money to qualify for the low-income health insurance program and meet other requirements. The state will follow up with those who no longer qualify to help them transition to coverage through the health insurance marketplace, officials said.

The Oregon Department of Human Services, which is responsible for checking eligibility for its own programs and for the health authority, called the volume of work ahead “historic.”

“We are serving the highest caseload we’ve ever had in the history of our

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