The Oregon experiment failed

October 1, 2010

The Oregon Health Plan was considered by many to be a masterpiece of health care delivery for the poor. It attracted international attention when its plan of explicit rationing of care promised to provide basic health care to virtually every Oregonian living in poverty. Did the plan live up to its promise?

The Oregon Health Plan was considered by many to be a masterpiece of health care delivery for the poor. It attracted international attention when its plan of explicit rationing of care promised to provide basic health care to virtually every Oregonian living in poverty. Did the plan live up to its promise?


The Oregon Health Plan has been called a “bold experiment” designed to expand health insurance to Oregon’s low income residents.  It sought simultaneously to expand coverage, control costs, and foster provider participation. 
However, [the] results are not significantly different from the outcomes seen by the U.S. as a whole.
• The share of uninsured in Oregon has not been significantly different from the rest of the U.S. for any sustained period of time.
• Total Medicaid expenditures and Medicaid expenditures per enrollee have closely tracked U.S. expenditures.
• Initial hopes for broad participation by providers have been dashed by the pullout of larger managed care providers and a shrinking pool of providers willing to accept Oregon Health Plan enrollees as new patients.

Full Cascade Policy Institute study on the Oregon Health Plan here.


Oregon's “bold” experiment with the Oregon Health Planhas been thoroughly tested. It has gone through more than fifteen years of economic and fiscal boom and bust cycles. In the end, the
experiment has failed to achieve its promoters' goals
simultaneously to expand coverage, control costs, foster
provider participation, and maintain fiscal sustainability.