In Oregon, Medicaid is buying air conditioners for people

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Oregon has begun providing air conditioners, air purifiers and power banks to help some of its Medicaid beneficiaries cope with rising heat, smoky skies and other dangers of climate change.

It is a country’s first experiment this expands a Biden administration strategy to move Medicaid beyond traditional medical care and into the realm of social services.

“Climate change is a health issue,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra he told me, adding that states should be encouraged to experiment with ways to improve people’s health.

But Medicaid’s expansion of social services could lead to abuses, especially when the government pays for equipment or services that everyone wants, he said Sherry Gliedrector of New York Universitygraduate school of public service.

“The challenge here is that air conditioners are something that both healthy people and people who have a really serious condition benefit from,” Glied said. “Most people have air conditioning for reasons that have nothing to do with their health.”

Many states are already spending billions of dollars from Medicaid in services like helping homeless people get housing and preparing healthy meals for people with diabetes. But Oregon is the first to spend Medicaid money explicitly on weather-related equipment to help its most vulnerable residents — it’s estimated that 200,000 registered.

Recipients must meet federal guidelines that categorize them as “facing certain life transitions,” a strict requirement set of requirements which disqualify the majority of registrants. For example, a person with an underlying medical condition that could worsen during a heat wave, and who is also at risk of homelessness or who was released from prison in the last year, could receive an air conditioner. But someone with stable housing may not qualify.

“Each person will be seen as what they need for their specific circumstance,” he said. David Badendeputy director of programs and policies at Oregon Health Authoritywhich administers the state’s Medicaid program, with about 1.4 million total subscribers. The program, part of a five-year program US$1.1 billion The effort, which includes housing and nutrition services, also pays for mini-fridges to keep medications cold, portable power supplies to run fans and other medical devices during power outages, space heaters for the winter, and air filters to improve air quality. during forest fire season.

Scientists and public health officials say climate change poses a growing health risk. The federal government latest climate assessment projects that floods, droughts, forest fires, extreme temperatures and more frequent and intense storms will cause more deaths, cardiovascular disease due to poor air quality and other problems.

The growing health effects disproportionately hit low-income Americans and people of color, who are often covered by Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income people.

The majority of 102 Oregonians who died during a deadly heat dome that settled across the Pacific Northwest in 2021 “were elderly, isolated and living on low incomes,” a report said. Oregon Health Authority report found.


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