Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
Feb. 5, 2010 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
Health care for all children is now a reality
"Impossible only means that you haven't found the solution yet."
~anonymous

This morning I attended a wonderful event with some Healthy Kids families and Governor Kulongoski. We celebrated the fact that the Healthy Kids plan is now open to all Oregon children -- and also spread the word about Healthy Kids so no Oregon children get left out of this important benefit. The Governor has been fighting to get coverage for all Oregon children and, today, he was able to announce that the fight has been won.

Governor and a family celebrating
Alicia Hobaish and her children join Governor Kulongoski to celebrate Healthy Kids being open to all Oregon children.
As you know, the Healthy Kids plan was passed by the Legislature during the 2009 session and has been implemented in phases over the past six months. This week, we began coverage to families under Healthy KidsConnect, the final phase of Healthy Kids. This important public-private partnership provides low-cost coverage for families through private health insurers.

This means that no Oregon child will be left out of health care coverage. Alicia Hobaish and her children joined the Governor at the event. Alicia came to tell the story of how important the Healthy Kids plan has been for her family. As so many Oregonians have, her husband lost his job -- and the family health coverage -- in 2008. The Hobaishes are working hard to get back on their feet, but they can't afford COBRA, plus the high deductibles, for the children. It's a nerve-wracking situation that many parents in Oregon are struggling with.

Healthy KidsConnect relieves that worry for the Hobaish family and many others. For example, KidsConnect will cover the two daughters of Chanda Vandersnick and her husband, Erick, of White City. Like many working families, they weren't able to get health coverage for their children through their employers. They worried about how to pay for the regular health care their girls' need, such as check-ups and dental exams. Then tragedy stuck: Their 10-year-old daughter, Elise, was diagnosed with leukemia this past November.

Last year the Vandersnicks applied for coverage through Healthy Kids, but didn't qualify because their income was just over the limit. But now, with the Healthy KidsConnect plan, their daughters will get comprehensive, quality health coverage at a rate Chanda and Erick can afford.

The need for the Healthy Kids plan illustrates a fundamental flaw with our health care system. But Oregon's Healthy Kids program also is leading the way with solutions. The Healthy Kids plan is just part of the work being done by the Oregon Health Authority, which is charged with bringing down the cost of health care for families, for employers and for the state.

We all know that health care costs too much, especially for people who are unemployed or underemployed. The average annual family premium has increased from $8,861 to $12,585 over the past five years. That's an increase of 42 percent. Health care is eating up an ever-increasing portion of family budgets. Parents who have lost their jobs simply cannot keep up.

So far nearly 31,000 kids have been enrolled in Healthy Kids, and we are doing a full-court press to bring more children into the program. Starting this week, expect to see Healthy Kids ads on buses, billboards and radio stations across the state. We've also enlisted the help of hundreds of community-based organizations, schools and churches to spread the word to more Oregon families. They are going to continue to help us until every Oregon child has health coverage.

I was also very pleased that Susan Johnson, regional director for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), joined us at the event. She brought congratulations for our success from the Obama Administration and DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. One of the questions from the media was whether what we've done in Oregon can be a model for other states. It absolutely can -- In fact, the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently recognized Oregon as an innovative leader in health reform.

It's going to take all of us working together to come up with the kinds of solutions we need in Oregon to lower costs, increase access to care, and improve quality for all of us. In the meantime, we are both celebrating the success of this important first step and calling on everyone to help spread the word. If you know of children who don't have health care, call our toll-free number, 1-877-314-5678, or visit our Web site, www.oregonhealthykids.gov, for more information. An application can even be filled out online.

We won't rest until every kid in Oregon is a healthy kid.

DHS on the web