The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

The Oregon Health Insurance Lottery

Posted by Alan on March 4, 2008


It sounds more like something from a science fiction movie – the kind that star actors who you recognize, but can’t remember their name. It would be called “Healthy Luck” and the slogan would be something like, “Get lucky. Your health depends on it.” But it’s not science fiction, it’s the very real state of Oregon. And what they’re doing is holding a lottery where the winners get, not cash, but health insurance.

Back in the 1990s (don’t these stories always start back in the 1990s?) Oregon had one of the most progressive health care reform plans of any state. A key part of the program was the Oregon Health Plan, which covered 132,000 Oregonians in 1995. The Oregon Health Plan offered coverage to those unable to afford traditional health insurance, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Then came the budget cuts. Oregon simply couldn’t afford to pay for the program. In 2004 they stopped taking new participants into the Oregon Health Plan. The percentage of the state’s population without insurance is now roughly equivalent to where it stood in the late 80′s, before the creation of the Oregon Health Plan.

Now, however, a few thousand slots have opened up and the state is going to fill it through a series of lotteries. According to the Associated Press, more than 80,000 of Oregon’s 600,000 uninsured have signed up for the chance to enroll in the program which provides basic health care, dental and vision services at little or no cost. It will take a few months to determine the winners.

For those winners, the Oregon lottery is more than science fiction, it’s a dream come true, a life line to the medical care they need. But the very existence of a lottery for health insurance underscores the need for a universal coverage plan that the country and its citizens can afford. That means making tough choices on how to control health care costs. And it means coming up with a workable solution to make access available to all Americans.

And a national health insurance lottery is not the answer.

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5 Responses to “The Oregon Health Insurance Lottery”

  1. John said

    Oregon has always been good about taking care of the people who are in need of assistance. Other states don’t have programs that remotely compare to what OR offers to those who can’t afford insurance.

  2. Matt said

    Cancel my insurance? I have surgery next week. Would that be smart?

  3. Doug said

    Here is an idea…want to bring the health industry to it’s knees. I suggest that everybody with health insurance cancel all their policies as of right now. Nobody but the rich can even afford decent health insurance. Just pay your bills as you can like I do and see how long the cost of health care stays up. Another point…quit trying to keep dying people alive for 1 or 2 more months at the cost of hundreds of thousands…

  4. FoolsGold said

    So they are creating yet another bureaucratic boondoggle so as to generate headlines about throwing some bones to the working poor. Big deal. Its the equivalent of allowing a few customers to get their crack at lower prices as part of a government price-support program that creates and maintains artificially high prices to benefit inefficient and ineffectual crack-house owners.

  5. And some political candidates still are pushing for a national health insurance plan? We need less government intervention not more.

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