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Children under 6 will now have continuous Medicaid coverage, in a first of its kind plan.

Oregon will be the first state in the union to allow continuous coverage for children until age 6, without requiring annual reapplications, under the Oregon Health Plan.

It is one of the features of a five-year Medicaid waiver just approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the joint federal-state program for health insurance coverage for 1.4 million Oregonians.

The waiver takes effect Oct. 1.

The waiver gives Oregon new authority to keep children enrolled in Medicaid up to 6 years old, without their families needing to renew their coverage. Under current rules, families have to reapply for coverage every year after the age of 1. Proponents say the plan minimizes red tape for both families and the state, and ensure kids have access to care they need. Children older than six will be able to keep their coverage for physical, dental and behavioral health care for up to two years, even if their household income fluctuates. It also will open the way to health-related coverage for some social needs, such as food assistance and housing support, and some support for climate-related health needs.

According to August data from the Oregon Health Authority, more than 145,000 children under age 6 were covered by 17 coordinated-care organizations that provide services under the Oregon Health Plan. About 100,000 were between the ages of 2 and 6 years old.

Oregon is projected to gain an additional $1.1 billion in federal money over five years, under the plan.

Gov. Kate Brown made the announcement jointly with federal officials, calling the approval an "innovative, holistic approach" to closing equity gaps.

"This transformational agreement injects new resources into our health care system to help Oregon families and communities tackle the housing and food insecurity problems that can undermine good health and quality of life," she said "I appreciate the Biden-Harris administration's partnership and their support to allow Oregon to once again break new ground in advancing the health and well-being of people in our state."

In a pair of tweets following the announcement, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden — who leads the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicaid and other major federal health insurance programs — said he was happy to see Oregon break new ground, providing continuous coverage under Medicaid for children from birth through age 5

"This is a huge step in keeping our communities healthier and safer," Wyden said. "I'll continue working to ensure kids across the country have this same expanded coverage so they have every opportunity to thrive."

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Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include data about the number of children covered by 17 coordinated-care organizations that provide services under the Oregon Health Plan.

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