In all the talk about healthcare reform, I couldn't help but notice that, as an underpaid service worker at the poverty line, I should be eligible for Medicaid now, even before the new law goes into effect. Am I missing out? What gives?
—Starvin' Marvin Hamlisch
Oregon doesn't have Medicaid. Instead, we have the Oregon Health Plan, which started in 1993 as a bold experiment in universal coverage. Then the state ran out of money, and the OHP turned, more or less, into a bold experiment in calling Medicaid by a different name.
In any case, if you're a childless adult, you need to do two things to get on the Oregon Health Plan: 1) Have an income below the federal poverty line ($10,830 a year). 2) Live in an alternate universe where Gov. Ted Kulongoski is a magical leprechaun who can poop diamonds.
See, qualifying for the OHP is no guarantee you'll get it. (In fairness to Oregon, the same is true in Medicaid states.) As Patty Wentz, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Human Services, puts it, "We're allowed to put [childless adults] on the plan. They just don't give us any money to do it."
Or at least they didn't. Then one day along came a magical leprechaun named Barack Obama, sowing the land with socialism, gay sex and healthcare reform. Now, starting in 2014, the cutoff for Medicaid goes to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. More importantly, the feds are going to pay for it. If you qualify, you get it, guaranteed.
So, Marvin, try to hold your intestines in with scotch tape for another four years; help is coming. In the meantime, you and all your ungrateful hipster buddies might want to consider VOTING ONCE IN A WHILE, which is how shit like this happens. Now get off my lawn.