Raising Premiums and Other Costs for Oregon Health Plan Enrollees Drove Many to Drop Out

The Oregon Health Plan was created to be a sustainable program that could weather budgetary storms without having to cut enrollees from Medicaid.

A 2003 redesign of the program increased premiums, raised cost sharing, and imposed rigid premium payment deadlines for members in the "Standard" version of the program but not for members of the "Plus" version.

This paper adds two years of longitudinal data to a previous study on the impacts of these changes. It shows that the redesign was a key factor driving a 77 percent disenrollment rate in the Standard program, from a high of 104,000 enrollees in February 2003 to just 24,000 by the end of the study period, November 2005. Those who were in the Standard plan when the reduced benefits and higher member costs went into effect were also nearly twice as likely to have unmet health care needs compared to those in the Plus plan.

These changes underscore that in a period of economic downturn, policy-makers must understand the impact of increased cost sharing on vulnerable populations.