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Unemployed workers turn to Oregon Health Plan for coverage, pushing it above 1 million members.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Oregon's Health Plan has seen a big jump in enrollment because of a rise in unemployment.A growing number of the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians made jobless by the coronavirus crisis are signing up for Medicaid insurance, but for now, at least, Oregon has enough money to cover them.

In the first 31/2 weeks of April, 19,000 new members enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, the state's version of Medicaid for low-income residents. That's on top of 23,000 new members in March, the Oregon Health Authority said. That took the membership of the health insurance system to 1,016,000 as of April 24, the state said.

It may take several months for the full force of the unemployment wave to hit the health system. So far, just a fraction of the newly unemployed have signed up. Experts say that's due to several factors, including that some employers have continued to provide commercial health insurance for furloughed workers; some of the unemployed may be covered by a spouse's health plan; and some of the newly unemployed may be focused on securing unemployment benefits and have not yet turned their attention to signing up for the Oregon Health Plan.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed Oregonians continues to swell. On Thursday, state officials said an additional 28,500 people filed initial claims for unemployment in the week ending April 25. That takes the total number of applications to 362,200 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. If every applicant is officially deemed unemployed, that would boost the state's jobless rate to 21%, up from 3.3% before the crisis.

This Lund Report story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.

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