KVAL and KATU
SALEM, Ore. — Despite the Trump administration’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Gov. Kate Brown is moving forward with her plan to extend health care for children in Oregon.
Right now the Oregon Health Authority estimates 17,000 children are without health insurance because they don’t meet immigration standards.
To combat the problem, Brown proposed $55 million from the general fund for House Bill 2726, known as Cover All Kids.
In her testimony Monday afternoon, Brown said every Oregon child needs access to education, health care and a bright future.
"Oregon children should have the opportunity to be healthy and ready to learn, and Oregon families should feel confident that a medical event will not dramatically change the trajectory of their lives," Brown said.
One Eugene resident, who’s worked in education for 20 years, said he sees the problem firsthand.
“The kids don’t go to school for a week or two weeks, and it’s after some digging that we find out, well, (the child is) sick and it’s not as simple as the flu,” said Fernell Lopez, school assistant for bilingual families.
The CEO of Northwest Permanente, Imelda Dacones, said when kids are covered, there’s an immediate and long-term return on investment for the state.
“They have reduced ER visits, which you know is probably the most expensive venue of acute care and also reduced hospitalization rates,” Dacones said.
She said they’re also less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to graduate college.
“They tend to have higher incomes and surpass their families’ incomes, so as adults they pay more taxes,” Dacones said.
A bipartisan group of legislators sponsored the House Bill and its companion, Senate Bill 558.
On Tuesday afternoon, more advocates will testify on behalf of the Senate bill in front of the Senate Committee on Health Care.
KATU spoke to a Portland State University student who's been a crusader for health insurance for kids.
Fatima Preciado said her mother couldn't get coverage because of her immigration status, and that was especially hard on her epileptic older sister.
"My sister, my older sister, she was born with a mental disability, and she required, and it was required for her to take medication to treat her epileptic seizures," said Preciado. "So growing up my mom couldn't afford her medications. And so that was very difficult on my family. And if we would have had proper health insurance, then that would have taken out the burden."
She is hopeful state lawmakers will extend health coverage to all kids in Oregon so they can achieve their dreams.