MotherBaby Network

advocacy and commentary with a focus on Lane County, Oregon

Oregon Health Plan applications should be expedited for pregnant women

Low-income pregnant women in Oregon experience too many delays in completing the Oregon Health Plan application process. These delays run counter to Department of Human Services policy requiring applications by pregnant women be expedited and processed within two business days. DHS branches must have or develop a specific process for expediting applications made by pregnant women.

Inadequate prenatal care is linked to increased risk for low birth weight, prematurity and infant and maternal mortality. Lane County fetal-infant mortality data for the period of July 2007 to June 2010 shows than 34% of affected families accessed prenatal care after the first trimester.

In an effort to minimize delays stemming from policy non-compliance, DHS has sent a policy transmittal to case workers and eligibility workers who process OHP applications. The transmittal reiterates and clarifies existing policy that until now has had variable degrees of implementation. Women can verify pregnancy with an informal note from a medical clinic or crisis center. Neither a note from a doctor, nor an ultrasound are required – though an ultrasound may be used for verification purposes.

“Emergent medical needs, and those who are pregnant, have priority when processing applications for medical. They do not need to disclose the basis of their emergent need. The application should be pended, approved or denied by the eligibility worker within one business day whenever possible.” – DHS transmittal

Pregnant women can print and bring this transmittal with them when applying for OHP. Regardless of a woman’s plans for her pregnancy, she is entitled to have her application expedited. If a woman planning to terminate her pregnancy encounters delays, this should be reported to the Network for Reproductive Options (NRO).

Special thanks to Representative Mitch Greenlick for providing legislative intern Jessica Matthews, MPH, the opportunity to work on this issue. Matthews worked with the Oregon Health Authority to clarify and communicate the correct policy. Thanks, too, to Bayla Ostrach for sharing the data from her master’s thesis that found low-income pregnant women in Oregon experience notable delays in the OHP application process.

Wider awareness of this policy can help to further eliminate bureaucratic barriers to pregnant women seeking access to care – spread the word. If you have a website or blog, post the DHS transmittal.

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