BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Three local nonprofit organizations — Mosaic Community Health, Latino Community Association and Volunteers in Medicine — have spent the last year working together in a unique partnership to inform Central Oregon’s immigrant community about the Oregon Health Plan’s expansion of health coverage.
For the first time in Oregon’s history, individuals can now qualify for full OHP benefits regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Oregon is one of only a few states in the nation that have embraced this critical approach to taking care of its residents.
To date, the local partnership has enrolled nearly 300 individuals in OHP and provided healthcare navigation support to more than 400 eligible people, significantly improving lives across the region.
The three organizations were recipients of an Oregon Health Authority grant supporting outreach, enrollment, and navigation activities in the Central Oregon region. Mosaic focused on marketing and outreach, LCA provided navigation support and enrollment assistance, and VIM offered warm handoffs to LCA for enrollment and to Mosaic for healthcare services.
As local, community-based nonprofit organizations, all three entities have served the immigrant, Hispanic and Latino population in Central Oregon for more than 60 years combined.
Increasing access, removing barriers to care
“Before this expansion, thousands of individuals were not eligible for full healthcare coverage only because of their immigration status,” said Jason Villanueva, Spanish Communications Coordinator and project lead for Mosaic. “In 2021, Hispanic or Latino individuals had the highest uninsured rate in the nation at nearly 18%. This was a major barrier to receiving care.”
Now, those that meet all other OHP eligibility criteria can access a full range of benefits including no-cost healthcare, mental health, vision and dental services, medical transportation and more. As of July 1, 2023, eligibility requirements include people of all ages who:
- Live in Oregon
- Meet income and other criteria
“Our team at Latino Community Association is excited to be part of this effort to increase access to important healthcare services for all Central Oregonians,” said Jazlyn Lepez, Healthy Families Program Coordinator with LCA. “Some of the obstacles Latino families encounter in accessing healthcare include language barriers, socioeconomic status, and immigration status. We are very happy to help remove some of these barriers and improve the health and lives of our community members.”
Reaching out, building relationships
In partnership, the three organizations are providing information, helping people sign up for OHP and assisting them in navigating the healthcare system. A targeted outreach strategy was developed by the Mosaic team to connect directly with Spanish-speaking Central Oregonians where they live, work, worship and play.
To date, more than 60 outreach events—usually attended by representatives of all three organizations—have taken place around the region. In addition, advertising campaigns have run on local Spanish language radio stations, the local Telemundo affiliate, social media/online, in partnership with Cascades East Transit and more.
“It has been a life-changing experience to be able to visit locations where Latino community members gather and to talk with them about Healthier Oregon,” said Villanueva. “I immigrated to the United States when I was a child, and I understand some of the challenges the immigrant community faces when it comes to health insurance and access to affordable healthcare.”
Villanueva recalls Lucia’s story (name changed to protect privacy), a diabetic Mosaic patient who qualified for health insurance for the first time thanks to OHP eligibility expansion.
For many years, Mosaic providers struggled to ensure that Lucia had access to a steady supply of diabetic medication and supplies. Without access to free health insurance due to her immigration status, Lucia bounced from one type of insulin to another, depending on available samples or other costly, process-heavy resources.
Today, because of OHP, Lucia is able to walk into any pharmacy and access the medication and supplies her life depends on. Her Mosaic providers are now able to refer Lucia for a diabetic eye exam and other specialty care that she has gone without due to her previous lack of health insurance. And with consistent, preventative care, Lucia will now be able to avoid visits to the hospital emergency room, saving healthcare system resources.
Changing lives for the better
Villanueva notes that one of the greatest learnings of the outreach effort so far has been recognizing the value of relationship-building in the community. While there is no doubt that OHP is a great resource for a lot of people, many immigrants and their families worry about jeopardizing their immigration status if they utilize or apply for OHP. Having information and support from local, trusted organizations has helped reduce fear and increased enrollment.
“Volunteers in Medicine, as well as Mosaic and LCA, have worked hard over many years to foster safe environments and provide trusted healthcare and social services resources for our community,” said Salome Chauncey, Care Coordinator and Lead Interpreter at VIM. “The expansion of OHP provided an opportunity for our organizations to come together and leverage our influence in the immigrant community to help spread the word about this life-changing access to free health coverage.”
VIM provides healthcare services to low-income, working adults who do not have medical insurance or the means to pay for healthcare. Their patient base includes community members who work in construction, hospitality, fast food or are artists, small business owners and other professions. Many VIM patients do not qualify for OHP due to their immigration status. Because of the eligibility expansion, 85 VIM patients qualified for full OHP benefits, and have now transitioned to other providers such as Mosaic to continue their care.
More than health coverage
LCA provides essential services to Latino individuals and families in Central Oregon. As part of the partnership effort, LCA’s bilingual OHP enrollment specialists have signed up nearly 300 people for OHP coverage. In addition, the team at LCA provides ongoing healthcare navigation to those in the program.
“Because new OHP members are often gaining access to the expansive network of health services for the first time, we provide far more guidance and information for them than we do to people who have had OHP for years – and they are grateful for it,” said Lepez.
Representatives from Mosaic, LCA, and VIM are proud of the positive impact that the local partnership to promote OHP has had. The OHA grant supporting this effort has recently been extended to a second year, and the three organizations plan to continue working closely together to strengthen bonds, streamline processes and continue to find ways to support immigrant families in Central Oregon.
To learn more or apply for OHP visit: MosaicCH.org/blog/Healthier-Oregon/ or call 541-788-4835.
About Mosaic Community Health:
Mosaic Community Health (formerly known as Mosaic Medical) is a nonprofit community health center that serves Central Oregonians from all walks of life. Through a network of more than a dozen clinics, we offer integrated health services that address each patient’s medical, dental, behavioral health, nutrition and medication needs. Our care is never influenced by how much money our patients make, what language they speak or the status of their insurance coverage. Mosaic Community Health provides quality care for all. For more information, please visit MosaicCH.org.
About Latino Community Association:
Since 2000, the Latino Community Association (LCA) has been empowering Latino families and building bridges across cultures to create a more resilient Central Oregon. In partnership with caring individuals, businesses, community organizations and public agencies, LCA remains committed to ensuring full participation of Latinos in our communities. Programs of LCA include: Workforce Education and Training, Family Empowerment, Healthy Families, Youth Rising and Cultural Enrichment. Its services impact more than 10,000 people every year. For more information or to join LCA, visit latinocommunityassociation.org or call 541.382.4366.
About Volunteers in Medicine:
Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) is a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that exists to improve the health and wellness of the medically uninsured or critically underserved through the engagement of professionals, community partners, and dedicated volunteers.
VIM provides healthcare to low-income, working adults who live in Central Oregon and have no medical insurance or means to pay for care. To do this valuable work, VIM mobilizes more than 300 medical and
community volunteers, and another 200 pro-bono medical partners – bringing together physicians, providers, employers, and community members from all over Central Oregon to achieve their common goal.