Guest Column

In a letter to the Bulletin on February 21st, Dr. Geraldine Kempler discussed the need for Oregon to develop a bridge health plan. This is in order to provide continued access to health care for people who are likely to lose their Oregon Health Plan (OHP) benefits due to federal changes to post-pandemic Medicaid eligibility. There was also an extensive article in the Bulletin on Saturday February 25th about this potential loss of OHP benefits for so many people. Unfortunately, Dr. Kempler’s letter did not acknowledge the solution that already exists for many of those who may be affected by these changes.

Individual and family health plans have been able to be purchased through the Oregon Healthcare Marketplace since 2014. While the annual open enrollment period is limited to a certain time of year, the Marketplace also allows a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for anyone who has a qualifying life event throughout the year such as an involuntary loss of other health coverage. This includes the loss of OHP benefits. The SEP provides a two-month window that guarantees access to individual health plans so people can move from OHP to a Marketplace plan and back to OHP, if need be, as their situation changes. These plans can even be retroactive to the date of the loss of OHP benefits. The carriers and the plans they are offering vary throughout the State. In Deschutes County individual and family plans are offered through the Marketplace by PacificSource, Providence Health Plan, Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon and Bridgespan. And there are no waiting periods for any pre-existing conditions or any other penalties associated with migrating to one of these plans.

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Patrick O’Keefe is the owner of Cascade Insurance Center in Bend.

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