As the health care debate continues in D.C., I have been feeling an even greater sense of urgency. The debate about how to best improve the health of our country, how best to control health care costs and how to ensure that all can get the vital health care that they need has been going on for decades.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who count on the state of Oregon for their health care, either because they are a client or an employee. And more than 600,000 Oregonians are facing a winter with no health insurance at all.
Reducing health care costs is clearly an economic imperative. Not only are medical costs eating up an ever increasing percentage of our state's and our businesses' budgets and of workers' paychecks, but as a society they are eating up an ever increasing part of our economy. It is not sustainable.
But making health care more accessible and affordable is also a moral imperative. The stark truth is that some of us have been invited inside to the warm hearth of health care while others have been left outside in the cold and dark to fend for themselves.
People without health care coverage do not get equal treatment. When they get sick they are more likely to get sicker and when they get sicker they are more likely to die. It's not fair but it's true.
So health care is about both value and values.
In Oregon, our values say that no matter what happens at the federal level, we aren't waiting. Through the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Health Policy Board, we are positioning ourselves to take the lead at the state level and be ready to capitalize on any national reforms that can be implemented here quickly. We have also moved forward to increase access to health care for all children and more adults.
I am pleased to report that things are going well in our outreach to families with uninsured children. So far we have enrolled 22,726 children in the Healthy Kids program and by January 1, 2010, Healthy Kids will be expanded to include children with families who are low-income but make too much to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan. They will be able to enroll in a health plan on a sliding fee scale effective January 1, 2010. We are on our way to meeting our goal of ensuring that all kids in Oregon have basic health coverage by the end of 2010.
Of course, it's going to take a lot more work to reach all of the families who are eligible for Healthy Kids, but we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get the job done. One of our outreach tools is a new Facebook page. If you are a Facebook member please become a "fan" of Healthy Kids and help us spread the word.
So while we have made great strides over the past year, we still have a long way to go.
And that is why Oregon cannot wait -- and isn't waiting -- to address the health care crisis. We are beginning to put the pieces in place to improve the health of Oregonians, bring enhanced value to our health care system, and bring all Oregonians into health care coverage. These are our values.
Follow our progress at the Oregon Health Policy Board Web site.