OHP memberships are rising due to pandemic policy changes

Oregon Health Plan (OHP) memberships have steadily risen since the state of emergency declaration on March 8, 2020 with an increase of 210,552 members or 19.5%, according to Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) Health Systems Division. 

 

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In response to COVID-19, OHA implemented temporary OHP policy changes that allowed members to retain their membership and for those in need to easily acquire services. Lori Coyner, OHA Medicaid director said:

“It was a choice we made to stabilize the lives of Oregonians with low-income and disabilities.”

The policy changes include a halt of closures, self-attestation and stimulus exceptions on income verification. 

An OHP member’s benefits cannot be closed during the state of emergency except for deaths, incarcerations and out of state residency. This allows members to remain covered throughout the pandemic and focus on other more pressing concerns. Coyner said:

“During this public health emergency, it’s vitally important to keep Oregonians covered with health insurance.”

To make applying easier for Oregonians to access quality and cheap care, OHP is forgoing income verification for now. According to Coyner, this allows applicants to access care faster and easier during this crisis. 

Once the state of emergency has been lifted, the verification process will be reinstituted. However, a grace period will be given to allow members time to verify their information. OHA is looking into making this a permanent change even after the state of emergency is lifted. 

Federal stimulus and increased unemployment payments do not count towards income on OHP applications.  According to Coyner, these fleeting payments do not reflect the true economic impact that the pandemic has had on individuals and families.

“We wouldn’t want to have somebody lose their Medicaid because they received this relatively small, one-time payment. That does not aid in maintaining health coverage.”

According to Coyner, these new policies aid the state goal of covering all Oregonians. It also allows low-income Oregonians to have equitable access to coverage in a simple and relatively fast way. 

“In terms of covering low-income Oregonians, I think we are moving forward in a very positive way.”