The Secret to Oregon’s Fast Track Enrollment

oha_logo_lrgPeople were startled when the Oregon Health Authority announced mid-way through October that the state’s uninsured rate had decreased by more than 10 percent in less than two weeks because of something called “fast-track enrollment.”

It’s a program the Oregon Health Authority, the Department of Human Services, and Cover Oregon, the state’s insurance exchange, whipped together over the summer to let Oregonians on food stamps know they could be eligible for Oregon’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan, since the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid made income eligibility guidelines similar.

The reason fast-track enrollment has been such a success is that it relies on something most people think of as Kafka-esque: bureaucracy.

The Oregon Health Authority already has people’s information on file, since they’re participating in another state program.

Taking that information, the Oregon Health Authority sent approximately 240,000 letters to people on food stamps in October explaining they could be eligible for the Oregon Health Plan (approximately 80,000 won’t be because their income exceeds the cap).

One reason fast-track enrollment has been so successful is that the Authority made it easy for people who received those letters—all they have to do to tell the Authority they want to be enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan is check a box saying they’re interested. They provide some basic information on a one-page form and send it back in a stamped, addressed envelope provided by the Authority.

The Authority has received 75,000 letters back, and is currently working to enroll those people in the Oregon Health Plan by January 1. Enrollment is expected to increase again, as the result of 177,000 reminder notices written in ten languages sent by the Authority this month. “Response to the fast-track enrollment option continues to be high,” Bruce Goldberg, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said in a recent newsletter. “Letters and phone calls come in every day.”

Another reason for the program’s success is that prior to 2007, Oregon’s Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority were the same state agency. Even though they are now split into two separate agencies, DHS and OHA frequently collaborate and share information about clients served both by DHS and OHA.