PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon is set to become the first state in the nation to try a new approach to Medicaid by using $1.1 billion in federal dollars to address issues like homelessness, food insecurity and childhood health care.
In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said these are some of the root causes of poor health.
"Under this agreement, Oregon will be the first state approved to use federal Medicaid dollars to fund medically necessary health-related services, including housing costs such as rental assistance," Allen said.
Health coverage will also be extended for children.
"Under this waiver, we will provide continued Oregon Health Plan coverage for all Oregon children under six years of age," Allen said. "That means fewer disruptions of health coverage and health care during a child's formative years."
The system will also provide health coverage for young people with special needs up to age 26.
Oregon will become the first state to help people deal with the impacts of extreme heat and wildfires through Medicaid by directly covering air conditioners, air filters and shelter for medically vulnerable people on the Oregon Health Plan.
Sarah Sullivan is the executive director of Gorge Grown Food Network. The organization supports thousands of families by providing fresh fruits and vegetables. She says the new Medicaid programs will provide a lot more access to people.
"The number of people we have been willing to serve is limited by a lack of funding and complicated mechanisms of enrolling people in the program," Sullivan said. "That is why this medical waiver to bolster access to nutritious food is so practical."
Allen said most of these programs will not start until 2024 because there's still a public health emergency due to the pandemic. That means people are in continued enrollment. Once the public health emergency ends, these new programs will start.