SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's health insurance exchange will not meet its goal of allowing online enrollment by the end of October.
Officials at Cover Oregon announced Thursday that they'll begin processing applications by hand. They say they've received more than 7,000 applications so far.
Cover Oregon was supposed to allow people to sign up for insurance coverage beginning Oct. 1. But officials say their software hasn't been able to accurately determine people's eligibility for tax credits, the Oregon Health Plan and Healthy Kids.
Officials did not set a new goal for getting the website fully functional. In the meantime, people can fill out a form online and submit it electronically or print and mail it. A staff member will determine whether they're eligible for a tax credit or public assistance and notify them in writing.
Cover Oregon Provides Update on Health Insurance Enrollment Options
Durham, Ore. – Cover Oregon announced today that Oregonians who want health insurance coverage by Jan. 1, 2014 will be able to get it through Cover Oregon. Paper and electronic applications are available now and Cover Oregon will get them processed while the online system is worked on.
"We're going to make sure that every Oregonian who wants coverage at the beginning of the year gets it,” said Governor John Kitzhaber. “There have been challenges. There often are when new ideas are put into action, but we're going to get this done."
“We encourage Oregonians to get started now with an electronic or paper application,” said Howard “Rocky” King, executive director of Cover Oregon. “Even with our current online system challenges, we will make sure that no one gets left behind. We have committed the necessary resources to process those applications quickly. We know that many people have been frustrated about not being able to enroll online. We are frustrated too.”
More than 17,000 people have already applied, and Cover Oregon is processing those applications. There is still time for people to buy insurance. Enrollment is open for six months, from Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. If people want coverage to kick in Jan. 1, 2014, they have until Dec. 15 to sign up. Cover Oregon has a system in place to enroll all Oregonians wishing to get coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014.
In order to quickly process electronic and paper applications, Cover Oregon has trained additional customer service representatives who are already busy at work. Once an application is submitted, people will receive written notice from Cover Oregon about whether they are eligible for the Oregon Health Plan or for savings through tax credits. They will also receive an enrollment packet with plan information. All they need to do is identify the plan they want, send the information back to Cover Oregon and pay the first month’s premium to the carrier.
Right now, Oregonians can:
- Fill out an application. They can do this with the help of a certified insurance agent or community partner, or can access the application on CoverOregon.com to fill it out on their own and submit it electronically or through the mail. A shorter version is available for people who are not applying for tax credits.
- Choose their plan. They can go to CoverOregon.com to compare plans and select the one they will enroll in, estimate savings through tax credits, check eligibility for the Oregon Health Plan, get monthly price quotes, find out which plans cover their current doctor, and more.
- Call 1-855-CoverOR to learn how to apply and get help in multiple languages.
- Sign up for “Fast Track” enrollment in the Oregon Health Plan or Healthy Kids if they received an enrollment letter, without having to go through Cover Oregon; 260,000 letters were mailed and more than 62,000 people have signed up.
“While the website and technology have gotten the most attention, Cover Oregon is more than just a website; it’s an opening to coverage for many Oregonians who couldn't get coverage before,” says Liz Baxter, executive director of Oregon Public Health Institute and Cover Oregon board chair. “Whether you enroll online or submit a paper application, you’ll get the same quality, affordable insurance.”
In an effort to quickly address the technical issues, Cover Oregon has taken aggressive steps to: reorganize the way contractors are working together and within teams; brought in new, high-level contract staff and engineers with deep technical knowledge to assess and rectify system issues at no cost to Cover Oregon; and are considering all available options to ensure contractual agreements are being met.
“We have a clear plan to get the online system up and have already made great progress,” said King. “We want to reassure Oregonians that technological setbacks will have no impact on their ability to enroll in an insurance plan that meets their needs and budget.”
“We have 11 medical carriers in the individual market competing head-to-head on Cover Oregon, giving Oregonians new coverage options and driving down the costs through competition,” says Jesse O’Brien, the health care advocate for OSPIRG. “In fact, our state has some of the lowest health insurance rates in the country, and Oregonians can get even more savings by signing up through Cover Oregon.”
For more information or to find a certified insurance agent or community partner to get started, go to CoverOregon.com or call 1-855-CoverOR. A downloadable application can be found here: https://apps.state.or.us/mbs/landing.jspx