Without primary care doctors, 9,000 Oregon Health Plan patients forced to use urgent care, emergency rooms

They’re known as the “undoctored” — the 9,000 Oregon Health Plan patients in Lane County who don’t have a primary care doctor.

They are adrift without doctors because Medicaid rolls in Lane County have surged to more than 96,000 people at the same time the county suffers from a shortage of primary care providers.

So instead of receiving the preventive services that Oregon’s coordinated care organizations were supposed to provide to boost health care quality for Medicaid patients and drive down costs, OHP patients in Lane County are crowding area emergency rooms and urgent care centers, or putting off seeing a doctor entirely.

“A lot of patients come to us late in their illness because they don’t have anybody to run things by,” said Kathy Ruede, clinical manager of PeaceHealth’s two urgent care centers. “They put things off. They don’t want to come with their three kids and wait for two or three hours.”

She said PeaceHealth’s urgent care centers have seen a huge increase in Oregon Health Plan patients since the Affordable Care Act took effect, “mostly because they can afford to come to us now instead of the ER.”

Ruede said 60 percent of the 1,500 patients PeaceHealth’s urgent care centers see each month are OHP members. “No other urgent care centers will see these patients,” she said.

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