Advocates Fighting Hunger Say Affordable Health Care Key to Struggle
PORTLAND, Ore. – The U.S. House is scheduled to vote on the American Health Care Act Thursday, and advocates fighting hunger in Oregon want lawmakers to keep in mind that affordable health care is a key part of addressing hunger.
Advocates are concerned that the GOP's replacement plan could leave a half million Oregonians without health insurance.
Surveys by Oregon Food Bank have found the number of people who saw high health care costs as the reason for needing food assistance was cut in half between 2012 and 2015 as the level of insured Oregonians doubled.
But Jeff Kleen, public policy advocate for the Oregon Food Bank, says those gains are threatened if people lose their coverage under the new plan.
"People who lose that health care coverage will once again be faced with that difficult choice of choosing between medicine and food," he stresses.
Kleen says medical debt has also been a major problem that has led more Oregonians to go hungry.
Supporters of the new bill say it will give Americans more choice and reduce the deficit.
Kleen says one lesser known part of Obamacare helped hospitals and clinics prioritize health outcomes, which gave way to a program developed by Oregon Food Bank and other health organizations called screen and intervene.
He says more than 200 clinics in Oregon now use this program to identify patients affected by hunger or food insecurity.
"We're concerned that without that provision, hospitals will have to return that funding back to treating patients who don't have health care that show up in the emergency room, which of course is the most expensive way to receive medical attention," he states.
Kleen says Oregon Food Bank wants to see legislation that maintains current coverage levels and affordability.
"Health care can be available, but if it's not affordable, it's not accessible to people with low incomes," he stresses.