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Oregon's Health Insurance Lottery

By Christian Dobbins

March 7 - This week Oregon state will begin conducting a lottery with the prize being free health care, reports the Associated Press. Over 80,000 people have signed up to participate since January, although only 3,000 will make the cut and receive coverage under the Oregon Health Plan's standard benefit program.

At its peak in 1995 the Oregon Health Plan covered 132,000 Oregonians, but due to a recession and the budget cuts that followed, the program was closed to newcomers in 2004. Only recently has the state managed to find the money to enroll 3,000 new members. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, there are an estimated 600,000 people in the state who are uninsured.

Lack of health insurance is one of the most critical issues facing the nation. The United States loses the equivalent of $65 billion to $130 billion annually as a result of the poor health and early deaths among uninsured adults. About 18,000 unnecessary deaths occur each year because of lack of health insurance. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine completed a series of reports that examined the consequences of uninsurance and released Insuring America's Health: Principles and Recommendations, which called for the president and Congress to strive to achieve universal health coverage by 2010. In this comprehensive four-year study, IOM extensively reviewed the causes of being uninsured and repercussions on individuals and families, as well as on society at large.

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