By Eve Dodds

 

The people of Oregon are about to get healthier. A national study by the Department of Health and Human Services has shown that Oregon’s health reform has so far had many benefits for local citizens.

The new laws, coming into force over the past couple of years, are “already providing better options, better value and a stronger Medicare program to the people of Oregon”, according to the report.

Before the state’s health reform came into effect, hundreds of thousands of Oregonians were without adequate health insurance policies. However, the new health reform has ensured that more than half a million Oregon citizens are now eligible for health cover via the Cover Oregon plan. In addition to this, almost all people – 93 percent – can likely qualify for a Medicard or tax credits.

Like many other American states, Oregon has a growing number of elderly residents. This increase has, in the past, led many insurers to simply deny them coverage when they have needed it. If coverage had been provided, it was often with a hefty increase in charges.

Under the new Cover Oregon plan, insurers will not be able to either deny coverage or charge elderly patients more should they need to make a claim. This will come as welcome news to the 1.7 million people elderly people in Oregon currently living with pre-existing health conditions.

Insurers are also no longer allowed to raise their cover rates by more than ten percent without a valid reason. If they do decide that they want to raise premiums by more than this amount, they will have to make a public announcement to justify the increase.

Oregonians will enjoy another benefit under the health reforms: huge savings on vital prescription drugs.

Citizens have already saved almost $75 million on prescription drugs through the Medicare plan. What will also come as a relief to many is that the prescribing of drugs will also be more heavily regulated.

This is following the growing prescription drug addiction problem, which has increased even more since the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008.

Drugs such as opiates and opioids, which are readily available over the counter or via the internet, are highly addictive and people can find it difficult to come off them after a genuine diagnosis. Under the new health reform, patients with an addiction to such substances will be offered adequate help and therapy to stop using them safely.

There are already a variety of clinics specializing in helping people to stop using painkillers. Rehab clinics are common in Oregon and doctors can refer patients to them. These centers are designed to ease people away from drugs altogether, helping them back to health in a more holistic manner.

Under the new health reforms, more people will be able to afford rehab services, without facing an unaffordable rise in their premiums.

Since the onset of the recession, paying for healthcare has been a major worry for many people. Health plan holders have seen insurance premiums drastically increase when they have had to make essential claims.

Under the new healthcare rules, thousands will be eligible for refunds on excess insurance costs that they have been forced to pay by their insurers. In fact, more than 22,000 Oregonians will receive almost $3 million worth of refunds this year paid directly  from their insurance companies. This is thanks to the new rule that governs what percentage of each premium must go towards care.

Oregon is not the only state to have benefited from the reforms; since the new laws have been introduced on a national level, millions of American citizens have saved money on their healthcare premiums, and millions more across the country can expect to receive refunds.

The government has allocated each state a budget to recoup refunds from insurers; Oregon alone has received $5 million.

National health reforms are expected to create a number of jobs and health centers in Oregon have predicted they will need to hire almost 50 new staff to help them to implement various tasks, including helping people on low incomes to find adequate health insurance cover.

 

Medicare Annual Enrollment starts Oct. 15

Multnomah County helps citizens through presentations and enrollment events  

 

Health insurance options are a topic for all ages this October. As expected, people with Medicare will have a wide variety of plans to consider. The choices will be familiar ones, since Medicare coverage remains the same.

Affordable Care Act (Cover Oregon) plans are not designed to supplement Medicare coverage. Make sure you are reviewing Medicare plans when you sit down to compare. Plans that do work with Medicare are listed on thewww.medicare.gov website, in the Medicare and You 2014 handbook mailed to households, and on the SHIBA website at www.oregonshiba.org .

The Multnomah County SHIBA (Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance) program offers several options to help people with Medicare compare their current coverage with the Medicare plans available for 2014. Enrollment events are planned at local libraries to provide one-to-one counseling appointments for those who prefer it. Separate “Plan Finder Boot Camp” presentations will focus on the Medicare online plan finder and other tools for individuals to use on their own.

Enrollment Events (appointments are required):

Individual one hour appointment with a trained, impartial SHIBA volunteer to compare plans. Call 503.988.3646 beginning October 2 to schedule an appointment. In SE Portland all take place at the Midland Library, 805 SE 122nd Ave. Dates are Wed. Nov. 6, Wed. Nov. 13, Mon. Dec. 2

90 minute “Plan Finder Boot Camp”

Get the tools you need. Presentations include a brief Medicare overview, tips on comparing plans, tutorial on using Medicare.gov Plan Finder, questions & answers. No individual counseling provided. Thur. Nov. 7, 9 am  SE Multicultural Senior Center, 4610 SE Belmont St, Lower Conf Rm.

For additional information, contact Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services Helpline at 503.988.3646.