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OP ED – Medicaid is US

May 2, 2018, 07:00 AM

By Eric C. Hunter

Medicaid is the backbone of health coverage for more than one million Oregonians. One in four Oregonians qualify for Medicaid. The implementation for expansion under the Affordable Care Act, took Oregon from an uninsured rate of 17 percent to 5 percent. Medicaid does not benefit only one group of people — it helps Oregonians across all demographics – racially, economically and generationally.

Unfortunately, the United States Senate has put millions of jobs at risk with its counterproductive gutting of Medicaid proposed under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The BCRA moves America’s health care system—and our entire economy—in a dangerous and harmful direction. The Senate bill will phase out Medicaid coverage for millions of Americans and threatens the viability of the Medicaid system through underfunded per capita allotments. The 400,000 low-income Oregonians who were added to Medicaid under ACA stand to lose their health insurance, and that is only the start of the economic impact this bill threatens.

Medicaid isn’t welfare; it benefits working Americans. Almost 60 percent of adults with Medicaid coverage are already working. Nearly half of them work for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Medicaid is essential for hardworking Americans to keep their jobs. Medicaid helps people manage their chronic illnesses so they can keep working. It is critical to supporting drug rehabilitation programs to counter the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation so that people can get well and get back to work. Nearly two-thirds of older and disabled Americans rely on Medicaid to help pay for nursing homes and care, lifting a burden off family members so they can continue to work.

In Oregon we see evidence of the benefits of Medicaid for people from all walks of life, and the economic and job security that Medicaid coverage brings. On average, Oregon’s rate of job growth has outpaced rates of job gains in states that did not expand Medicaid coverage, according to the office of Oregon’s state economist. In the past three years, Oregon has gained 23,300 new health care jobs.

Today, more than 900,000 Oregonians in Medicaid (called Oregon Health Plan) are enrolled in locally governed Coordinated Care Organizations that are focused on prevention and eliminating avoidable costs. Oregon's Medicaid model is working. Hospital readmissions among Medicaid members have been cut by one-third in the past five years, and fewer OHP members are forced to rely on emergency rooms for medical care, avoidable emergency room visits dropped 50 percent in Oregon since 2011.

In his campaign and throughout his administration, President Trump has promised that, “Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” Millions of these forgotten Americans are able to work only because they receive health care coverage through Medicaid.

At CareOregon, we joined a campaign to support Medicaid called Medicaid is US because we felt a moral obligation to the patients we serve that they maintain access to high quality, affordable health care. But we also feel a responsibility to make this case in a civil and dignified manner that respects legitimate differences of opinion about health care policy in America. Name-calling and finger-pointing gain us nothing. That is why we have focused on the impact of Medicaid on job creation and economic well-being. At every point in our lives, Medicaid is there to ensure that we and our loved ones have the health security they need to maintain their economic security. Medicaid belongs to everyone and benefits everyone. In this debate, there is no us and them. There is only us.

Eric C. Hunter is the president and CEO of CareOregon, Inc., and is the chair of the Health Share of Oregon board of directors