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The Oregon Health Experiment: Does It All Boil Down to An Air Conditioner?

When it comes to the healthcare debate, Governor John Kitzhber of Oregon loves to tell a story about an air conditioner:

As it turns out, I have heard the air-conditioner story. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) loves to tell the air-conditioner story. He loves to tell it so much, in fact, that it has become something of a running joke in Oregon health-policy circles. At this point, even Kitzhaber is in on it. Before he repeats it to me, he says, “I probably shouldn’t bore you with my air conditioner story.”

Here’s the air conditioner story: There’s a 90-year-old woman with well-managed congestive heart failure who lives in an apartment without air conditioning. That’s actually the whole story.

Kitzhaber, a former emergency room physician, sees this as the perfect example of what’s wrong with our health-care system. “A hot day could send the temperature in her apartment high enough that it strains her cardiovascular system and kicks her into full-blown congestive heart failure,” he said. “Under the current system, Medicare will pay for the ambulance and $50,000 to stabilize her. It will not pay for a $200 window air conditioner, which is all she needs to stay in her home and out of the hospital. The difference to the health-care system is $49,800. And we could save that $49,800 without reducing her benefits or her quality of life.”

Is the future of American health care in Oregon?

Do you think that Oregon can reform Medicaid? Tell us about it in our discussion forum!

Related posts:

  1. The Oregon Experiment: Does Medicaid Make a Difference?
  2. The Oregon Medicaid Lottery, a Winner’s Story
  3. Oregon Opens Child-Only Health Insurance to Year-Round Enrollment
  4. Reminder: Enrollment in Oregon Child-Only Health Insurance Now Open Year-Round
  5. Vermont Moves Towards Universal Healthcare, a Doctor’s Story

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