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Oregonians are known for loving the outdoors. But that doesn't necessarily mean we're healthy. By some measures, Oregon is one of the least health states in the West.Chronic diseases such a diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure are the leading cause of death in Oregon and cost Oregonians more than $8 billion dollars each year in medical costs.Oregon Public Broadcasting's Ryan Haas has produced this four-part series that looks at the human and financial costs of Oregon's chronic disease problem, and looks at some solutions.

Oregon’s Chronic Disease Problem And The Affordable Care Act

Ryan Haas /OPB
Matt Hodson, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 34, is concerned about future changes to the federal Affordable Care Act.

Matt Hodson bikes to work three or four times a week and hits the trail for a jog on weekends when he can. He’s been a vegetarian since the ‘90s and takes his coffee with just a dash of cream — no sugar.

That healthy lifestyle is the primary way Hodson tries to manage his several chronic diseases. He freely admits he’s struggled with being slightly overweight for most of his life, in part due to a “Snickers habit” he maintained in his early adulthood.

He was diagnosed in 2007, at the age of 34, as being a Type-2 diabetic and having high blood pressure. 

“It’s kind of hard to take because you’re always thinking back to yourself, ‘Well, what did I do? Was it that one Snickers bar or that time I had a couple Cokes?’” he said.

But for all his reflection on the past, Hodson is most concerned about future changes to the federal Affordable Care Act. He’s worried protections for people with pre-existing conditions could disappear as Republicans present their revised plans for health care.

“Without the pre-existing conditions [clause of the ACA],” Hodson said, “my insurance would be considerably more expensive.”

Hodson said he’s mainly concerned about the medications he needs to manage his chronic diseases. He takes around 13 pills each day, at a total cost of $600 per month. Fortunately, Hodson said, his insurance as a state employee cuts those costs down to an affordable $6 per month.

Oregonians benefited widely from the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, with an estimated 375,000 people signing up for health insurance.

Those low-income Oregonians are also the most vulnerable to chronic diseases and stand to lose the most if coverage evaporates, according to Providence Health family physician Dr. Daniel Rosenberg.

He called a dissolution of Obamacare a “freaking disaster” for Oregonians with chronic disease.

“We have a lot of people who have been able to obtain health insurance for the first time — who before my main management plan was just picking up the pieces,” Rosenberg said. “I hope that we don’t see that again. I hope that our elected officials are wise enough that if they’re going to replace the Affordable Care Act, they put something in there that doesn’t have those folks fall through a trap door.”

Hodson said he’d like to see Oregon prevent people from falling through that “trap door” by securing existing guarantees under the Affordable Care Act.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting