TOPIC: Oregon Health Plan

Things are changing rapidly in the health care field, so you can’t fault people for not being able to keep up.

Here in the Beaver State, we’ve got Obamacare, Cover Oregon, Coordinated Care Organizations, Medicaid and Medicare — all have dramatically changed the industry the last three years.

But with rapid change, it’s more important than ever to keep up with what’s true and what’s not. With something that has become as politically contentious as health care, people are bound to bend the truth to try to secure a few votes or denigrate an opponent.

So let’s separate fact from fiction in this week’s Two Truths and a Lie.

TRUTH: The Oregon Health Plan is a state-run program to improve health care for Oregon’s poorest residents.

The Oregon Health Plan provides health care coverage to low-income Oregonians. Currently, more than 900,000 people each month receive coverage through the plan.

The plan’s goals are to increase access for low-income residents, improve the quality of that care, increase the number of preventative services and contain the costs thereof.

Most people on the Oregon Health Plan are served by local community care organizations. They bring together multiple aspects of health care: doctors and hospitals, along with mental health and dental care.

Heavily funded by the federal government, the CCOs are being studied to see if they could be the basis of a national program to reduce health care costs and improve coverage.

TRUTH: 2014 was a year of big changes for the plan.

Lots of new rules took effect on the first of January, much of it coming from the fact that the OHP was expanded with the rollout of Obamacare. Since that time, more than 200,000 Oregonians have joined the plan.

That’s because more Oregonians had access to the plan. Income levels were upped, meaning a single person making as much as $16,100 a year would be eligible, or a family of four making less than $32,900.

There was also — cover your eyes! — the rollout of Cover Oregon. I’m sure you remember the website debacle that came along with that – even now, people have to fill out paper applications instead of being able to submit them online.

Cover Oregon includes the Oregon Health Plan (as well as Healthy Kids and some private insurance plans). The thought was that people who had a higher incomes than the limits set by the OHP could find affordable coverage through the state marketplace. Needless to say, that’s been a rough transition.

LIE: The state is going to use OHP to sterilize your children against your will.

Maybe you’ve seen this strange Internet rumor, first sparked in 2012 after a right wing website published an article under the frightening headline “Obamacare mandate: Sterilize 15-year-old girls for free — without parental consent.”

It has recently been given a second life due to anti-Kitzhaber sentiment and opposition attempts to replace him as governor.

We’ve received a few letters from across the state in recent weeks, each warning that Governor Kitzhaber is dead-set on sterilizing your children.

“How could any truly good person in authority let this sick, twisted law stay in place? How disgusting! Is our doctor-governor taking care of our children or is he just obsessed with power?” read one of those letters.

I guess the theory is that if doctors could convince young people to be sterilized, they’d get taxpayer dollars to do it.

The only problem is that while a “consent to sterilization form” is one page among thousands in the Oregon Health Plan, few people really are that evil.

According to public relations officer Karynn Fish, “Records reviews over the past decade shows there have been no payments for procedures for people under 17 years old.”

She also noted that there has been less than one a year for the past decade for people 17 years old — and all for serious medical issues, not because some doctor is out for a few bucks or young people are lining up in droves to get the procedure against the advice of their parents.

It’s a good reminder: don’t let yourself be frightening by unprofessional “news” websites or chain emails. They exist to scare or confuse you, not inform you.

Always double-source your information and use some common sense.

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