Cover Oregon aims to decrease the number of uninsured Hispanics

Cover Oregon’s broad efforts to sign up an estimated 600,000 uninsured Oregonians on the online health insurance market place will include much needed steps in Woodburn to sign up the city’s majority Hispanic population.

The online marketplace, which launches Oct. 1, will be available for anyone to purchase insurance, whether they’re currently lacking it or are looking to improve existing coverage for when the Affordable Care Act takes effect Jan. 1.

An estimated 42.3 percent of Hispanic adults ages 19-64 are uninsured, according to a September 2012 study by the Office for Oregon Health Policy and Research.

In Woodburn, which has a 60 percent Hispanic population, those numbers are likely to increase coverage for a large segment of the population.

“More of our patients are going to be insured,” said Kevin Heidrick, regional clinic medical director at Salud Medical Center in Woodburn. “That is a financial benefit to us, but it also means that more patients are going to be able to get the care they need.”

Salud, which is owned by the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, is a federally qualified health center and receives an enhanced rate for Medicaid patients. As a result, it is able to offer a 75 percent discount on services to Medicaid patients, Heidrick said.

Under the Cover Oregon plan, many patients will automatically qualify for Medicaid if they are earning 138 percent or less of the federal poverty level. Others earning up to 400 percent of the level could qualify for subsidies that would help them purchase a plan on the exchange.

“We’ve already started informing patients,” said Angela Gonzalez, Salud’s senior director of regional operations. “We’ve started collecting information if we think they might be eligible and telling them what the requirements are to be eligible for the program.”

Among those requirements, patients have to be a citizen or a legal resident for five years, Gonzalez said.

Challenges of getting this population to sign up for the exchange include the need to build trust for a state program within the Hispanic community, said Amy Fauver, chief communications officer for the Durham-based organization.

“We want to make sure because of the size and significance of Oregon’s Latino population we crafted a strategy specifically designed to reach them,” Fauver said.

The two-part strategy includes both a bilingual advertising campaign that will launch in September and an on-the-ground, grassroots effort that will involve community partners, she said.

Cover Oregon, working through Portland-based Lara Media, is still crafting its Hispanic-focused marketing campaign, which will include bilingual ads focusing on family and family relationships that will appear on Spanish-speaking cable television and radio, newspaper and social media.

The other part of the rollout will involve community partners and providers who will be enrolling uninsured members of the community in the exchange.

“For a lot of people, particularly whose first language isn’t English, they need to hear about us from someone they know and trust,” Fauver said. “To do that, we need to reach people where they live, work and play.”

Cover Oregon is using a similar strategy that was rolled out by the Oregon Health Authority for its Healthy Kids program. Launched in 2009, the program cut the percentage of uninsured kids around the state in half. Today, about 9 percent of Hispanic kids 18 and younger are uninsured, according to Cover Oregon.

“We already have a successful system in place,” Fauver said. “We are expanding with them to a broader focus to include adults and private insurance plans.”

Interface Network Inc., which signed up 300 families last year for the Healthy Kids program and has been involved in the Latino Microenterprise Development Program and other youth and work force development programs in Woodburn and Salem, is slated to receive a grant from the Oregon Health Authority to help enroll Latino and Russian populations under Cover Oregon’s rollout, according to Cover Oregon.

“We are going to go to businesses, schools and community events asking if they have insurance,” said Federico Corzo, outreach specialist for Interface. “If they don’t, then we’ll make appointments to help them fill out the application.”

Goals for the outreach efforts are to reach 5,000 people and sign up 200 people on the exchange within the first year, according to Interface.

Challenges include some of the barriers working with populations that have limited English proficiency and confusion regarding the details about how the program works, Corzo said.

“Sometimes they are scared about it,” he said. “They are scared because it’s a state program that we would send information to immigration.”

But the trust that Interface has built working with the public over the last 10 years should help overcome some of the hesitation and confusion, he said.

“They know who we are and what we do,” Corzo said.

Interface will have a booth set up in Woodburn’s Downtown Plaza from Sept. 13-15, where many residents will be celebrating Mexican Independence Day that weekend.

For more information about Cover Oregon’s health insurance marketplace, visit For bilingual information, call 855-COVEROR (855-268-3767).

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