Obamacare enrollees strain Medicaid in Oregon
PORTLAND, Ore. — Low-income Oregon residents were supposed to be big winners when the state expanded Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul and established a system to improve the care they received.
But an Associated Press review shows that an unexpected rush of enrollees has strained the capacity of the revamped network that was endorsed as a potential national model, locking out some patients, forcing others to wait months for medical appointments and prompting a spike in emergency room visits, which state officials had been trying to avoid.
The problems arise amid nationwide growing pains associated with the unprecedented restructuring of America's health care system, and they show the effects of a widespread physician shortage on a state that has embraced Medicaid expansion.
It's too early to tell whether there will be lasting troubles associated with these immediate challenges. Overhaul supporters say they anticipated the need for more doctors and are implementing solutions to improve access to care. They point to the crush of new Medicaid enrollees as proof that their efforts are necessary and working.
Still, early indications show clear challenges associated with expanding Medicaid and establishing coordinated care networks, the centerpiece of Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan to reduce costs and improve care by focusing on primary care and keeping patients out of emergency rooms.
“As soon as people got insured, they all showed up at once, wanting to deal with the problems they couldn't deal with for years,” said John Guerreiro, a primary care doctor in northwestern Oregon.
Under the federal overhaul, the state this year added nearly 360,000 people to the Oregon Health Plan, its version of Medicaid.
For critics, these problems are the latest in a series of Oregon woes that include the state's decision to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on an online marketplace that failed under a litany of embarrassing problems and prompted a switch to a federal site.
But many state officials consider such issues as bumps in the road, far from anything that would threaten the overhaul. They say they're working on bringing all enrollees into the coordinated care system by year's end.
“I would consider it a rare success story for Oregon to absorb all these new patients,” said Leslie Clement, chief policy director at the Oregon Health Authority, a state medical regulating agency. “The primary care shortage is a national problem; it's not an Oregon issue.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Shellfish farmers’ planned use of pesticide under fire
- Researchers find new, elusive bird species
- White House mum on hack of computer system by Russia last fall
- New York City officer critically shot; hunt under way for suspects
- Experts: Convictions against police officers will be tough to win in Baltimore case
- U.S. forced to drop case in forest fire
- Baltimore mayor lifts curfew 6 days after riots
- Woman killed in Atlanta police car shot at officers after escaping from handcuffs in the back seat
- Sanders to enter race for White House
- Rift invites talk of Florida split
- Missouri woman tells police she was held captive in wooden box