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Back in 2009, the Oregon Legislature passed a 1 percent tax on health insurance premiums (paid by the insurance companies and passed on to the customers) and used the revenues to expand health care coverage for children through Oregon Healthy Kids.
We’ve covered some squabbles over that tax and the program here and here.
So, naturally, our interest was piqued when the subject cropped up again recently. This time It came by way of Oregon Catalyst, a conservative political website and a picture it posted of an Oregon Healthy Kids billboard.
Flying above pictures of healthy kids and their families and physicians is the sentence "No family earns too much to qualify."
Sure, the program has been expanded, but could that possibly be true? Or, as Oregon Catalyst poses the question: "Can anyone explain this? It seems like anyone is entitled to government service whether you need it or not."
We decided to check in with Cathy Kaufmann, manager of the Healthy Kids Office, and see whether it’s true that any family can qualify for the program.
"Any Oregon family with an uninsured child has a path to Healthy Kids regardless of income," she said. However, that insurance may come at a cost that makes it -- for most people -- essentially out of reach.
Any family can get insurance through the Healthy Kids Connect program, Kaufmann explains, but some will pay more than others. Families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (about $44,000 a year for a family of four) qualify for free child health care. Families earning between 200 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level (about $66,000 for a family of four -- also Oregon’s median income) qualify for subsidized health care on a sliding scale.
Now for the third category: Those families making more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Well, they could still enroll their children through Healthy Kids Connect, but they won’t get any financial break, Kaufmann said. In fact, because the Healthy Kids coverage is so comprehensive -- it covers medical, dental and vision care -- they’ll be paying a pretty high yearly premium. Possibly as much as $3,400, according to a rate sheet posted on the Healthy Kids website.
So, it seems, the billboard is factually accurate. Any family can qualify, whether they make $1 a year or $1 billion. That said, it seems to us Oregon Healthy Kids could have been more precise in their advertising: Families do have to meet certain income limits to qualify for assistance. We rate this claim Mostly True.
Oregon Catalyst blog post, Nov. 22, 2010
Interview with Cathy Kaufmann, Nov. 24, 2010
Interview with Jason Williams, contributor to Oregon Catalyst, Nov. 29, 2010
Healthy Kids Connect rate sheet, Feb. 9, 2010
Healthy Kids web site, eligibility information, Oct. 5, 2010
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