Skip to main content

New free health care program to cover about 100,000 Oregonians

New ‘OHP Bridge’ state coverage will cover people who earn too much to qualify for the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan starting July 1
The Oregon Health Authority in Salem. | OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY
July 1, 2024

On Monday state officials introduced a new program intended to eventually provide free health care for an additional 100,000 Oregonians.

The program is called “OHP Bridge” because it will expand upon the current income eligibility limits of the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan, providing care to households earning between 138 to 200% of the federal poverty level.

That increases the income eligibility cap to $30,120 for an individual or $62,400 for a family of four.

The expansion makes Oregon only the third state in the country to use a federal law allowing states to design what’s known as a basic health program. New York and Minnesota used the law in 2015 to continue existing programs, meaning Oregon is the first state to build its own program from scratch. Also unlike the other two states, Oregon does not require that members pay to cover a portion of their care.

Oregon Health Authority officials had pitched lawmakers on the plan as a way to preserve coverage gains during the pandemic. Until the new program launched, officials secured federal approval to keep about 28,000 people covered by the Oregon Health Plan who no longer qualified.

OHP Bridge recipients will continue to receive free dental coverage, but they will not receive Medicaid coverage of long-term care.

Oregon Sen. Elizabeth Steiner of Portland said that people who are making 138%-200% of federal poverty levels are most likely to “churn” on and off the Oregon Health Plan, resulting in their difficulty in managing anxiety and other chronic diseases.

“I’m very excited to be part of this, to see this move forward,” Steiner said. “The Bridge health plan is the next step along the path to ensuring that every Oregonian has access to high quality, affordable, upstream health care to both prevent disease and manage chronic disease well, so people can live as healthy a life as possible, can be productive members of their communities, so adults can be active members of the workforce.” 

Gil Muñoz, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center’s chief executive officer, characterized the program as “a win for patients, working families who are challenged to make ends meet with housing costs, with food, transportation, child care.”

Oregon Health Authority Director Sejal Hathi called the program a “significant milestone.”

Earlier projections commissioned by the state found that due to complicated federal rules the new program would have the effect of boosting premiums for some people making too much to be in the program, including some making between 200-400% of the federal poverty level. 

Asked Monday morning what steps health officials had taken to further measure and limit the scope of the state-projected premium hikes, a spokesperson did not immediately provide information.

Daniel Tsai, the federal government’s deputy administrator and director of Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program services, said during the press conference that the federal government had approved a separate program that ensures that tribal communities in Oregon can continue to access Medicaid and CHIP services in the way that they have been.

Cost sharing for patients fuels inequities as well as barriers to care for low-income people, officials noted. Hathi called the new program “foundational to our strategic plan to eliminate health inequities in Oregon.”

The new program will be funded by federal subsidies that had previously been going to people who bought their own policies on the federal health insurance marketplace website. 

As a result of the new program, those subsidies will no longer be available to people making 200% of the federal poverty level or less. However, the new program's coverage will be far less expensive to members than marketplace policies can be due to high deductibles and cost-sharing.