OHSU study shows 63 percent drop in uninsured Oregonians

09/18/14  Portland, Ore.

More Oregonians have health care coverage than ever before

A study released today shows that the number of uninsured Oregonians fell by 63 percent from June 30, 2013 to June 30, 2014. Conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon Health Authority, in consultation with the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota, the study’s key objective was to estimate the number of uninsured individuals in Oregon as a result of policy changes associated with the Affordable Care Act.

“This first glance at Oregon’s uninsured rates shows that a significant number of Oregonians have benefited from expansions in access to health insurance,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., health economist with the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness at OHSU and lead author on the study. “Our study found that 95 percent of Oregonians now have health insurance coverage”

The number of uninsured Oregonians in June 2013 was estimated to be approximately 550,000, or 14 percent of the total population. The study found that the number of uninsured individuals in Oregon declined to roughly 202,000 in June 2014, or 5.1 percent of the population.

The study – entitled Impacts of the Affordable Care Act on Health Insurance coverage in Oregon – used a methodology developed by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center that assembled data by coverage type at two points in time: June 30, 2013 and June 30, 2014. Data for the analysis were gathered from the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon Health Authority enrollment reports on Oregon Health Plan programs, the 2013 Oregon Health Insurance Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Since the beginning of the year, nearly all of the previously uninsured patients we care for at Richmond Clinic have gained health insurance coverage,” said Christina Milano, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine and family medicine physician at the OHSU Richmond Clinic in Southeast Portland. “This makes a huge difference for these patients who previously had to pay out of pocket or work out other payment agreements; it’s a big weight off their shoulders. There’s also a peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re covered if you have a critical illness in the future.”

Medicaid eligibility extensions and expanded access to individual health plans through Cover Oregon, Oregon’s health insurance marketplace, drove the substantial increase in the number of insured Oregonians. Most of the newly insured are enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s Medicaid program, which saw an increase of more than 360,000, or 59 percent. Participation in private non-group health plans saw a 20 percent increase in participation, primarily through Cover Oregon.  

The study also found that increased access to public and non-group insurance was partially offset by 2 percent declines in enrollment in large and small group plans.

“This was a preliminary study and longer-term surveys, due out in 2015, will be critical in understanding the full picture in Oregon,” said Graven. “But today we know Oregon has successfully enrolled 63 percent of the uninsured. That significant increase should impact the newly insured Oregonians in a positive way. Research shows that when people gain health insurance coverage, specifically the Oregon Health Plan, they have greater economic security, reduction in medical debt and bankruptcy and increased preventative screenings.”

Support for the study was provided by the Oregon Health Authority and by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State Health Reform Assistance Network.

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is a nationally prominent research university and Oregon’s only public academic health center. It serves patients throughout the region with a Level 1 trauma center and nationally recognized Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. OHSU operates dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy schools that rank high both in research funding and in meeting the university’s social mission. OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute helped pioneer personalized medicine through a discovery that identified how to shut down cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy ones. OHSU Brain Institute scientists are nationally recognized for discoveries that have led to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke. OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute is a global leader in ophthalmic imaging, and in clinical trials related to eye disease.