SPIRITED, a CareOregon eNewsletter

Free cell phones to connect members to CareOregon

By the end of February, CareOregon will begin putting free Samsung cell phones into the hands of tens of thousands of qualified members of Health Share of Oregon/CareOregon, Columbia Pacific CCO, Jackson Care Connect, Yamhill Community Care Organization and CareOregon Advantage Plus.


“Not being able to easily communicate with their health plan and providers isn’t just a matter of convenience for Medicaid members, it’s a significant barrier to health,” says Martin Taylor, CareOregon director of public policy and community relations. “Too many people can’t easily get in touch with our customer service reps if they need to find a provider or make arrangements for the care they need. And it’s also nearly impossible for us to stay in touch with many of our members, especially if they don’t have a permanent residence or reliable telephone number.”

The SafeLink mobile phone program is supported by the federal and state Lifeline programs to provide cell phone service to eligible households. There are no contracts, credit checks or fees to the member. SafeLink works with many health providers like CareOregon throughout the nation to distribute cell phones. In addition to Medicaid members, it’s also designed for those who qualify for other government assistance programs such as:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
National School Lunch Program
Low–Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)

Free cell phones, with up to 250 minutes of airtime a month, will go to members who qualify for the program (but only one phone per household is permitted). Calls to CareOregon customer service will be free, as will all outbound text messages. In addition, those who are part of a wellness program for a chronic illness will be able to choose to receive free interactive daily health alert messages.

“This will help our members,” Martin says. “We’ve heard from them how costly it is to call us from a cell phone, especially if they’re put on hold for a long time. Members also can choose to give their number to their doctor and other providers, which would make it easier for members to be reached with appointment and care reminders.”