A bill passed during the 2015 Legislative Session may finally lead to health coverage for many of Oregon's Pacific Islanders.
Citizens of Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, subject to a U.S. diplomatic act known as the Compact of Free Association (COFA), are allowed to live and work in the U.S. and join the U.S. military. They also pay taxes, yet they have severely limited access to Medicaid. This is a particularly heavy burden for COFA Islanders, as many suffer from chronic health conditions due to U.S. use of the COFA Islands as a nuclear test site in the mid-nineties.
This summer, COFA Alliance National Network (CANN), with support from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and other partners, organized to advocate for health coverage. They succeeded in raising awareness of the issue, convincing several Oregon legislators to champion their cause, and ushering House Bill 2522 through Congress.
HB 2522, which was signed by Governor Kate Brown, directs the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services to begin designing a premium assistance program for COFA Islanders.
We're crossing our fingers for more definitive action during the short session in 2016!