Cover Oregon fair draws hundreds on High Desert

'So I can get health insurance for the first time ever'

POSTED: 6:38 PM PST November 22, 2013    UPDATED: 7:53 PM PST November 23, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

There's a packet of papers in  Bend resident Stephen Avery's hands that he hopes will change his life.

"I'm here just like everyone else, to get some help, so I can get health insurance -- for the first time ever," Avery said.

He's one of hundreds who came to Cover Oregon's application Fair at The Riverhouse on Friday to get enrolled.

Cover Oregon officials said 300 people pre-registered for the event, they said they expected hundreds more to come.

People from all walks of life -- many with one common wish.

"I haven't had insurance for about five years," said Bend resident Eileen Lock. "My husband lost his job with a disability."

Bend resident Marvin Law said going to the fair was crucial.

"I had questions I needed answered," he said. "When you don't have any coverage to begin with, it's pretty important."

This chance to apply, a lifeline for people who've been eagerly waiting for Cover Oregon to catch up.

The paper applications come as a last resort for a program that promised a functional website months ago.

"I absolutely understand their concerns," said Cover Oregon spokeswoman Elizabeth Cronen. "The technology is not yet working how we want it to."

Still, she points to the big picture.

"The goal all along has been coverage for Oregonians who need it, and we will use whatever resources and tools that are necessary," Cronen said. "We have a process for Oregonians that is working, and working well."

And for those tired of going without, there are few complaints.

"I had the application done online, went online and made an appointment, and it went pretty smooth," Law said.

Lock said she was in and out quickly.

"I was in there five minutes, so I'm very happy, and I'm hoping it will continue to be this positive," Lock said.

For Avery, it's the break he's been waiting for.

"I'm one of the people who's used to not going to the doctor until it's an emergency, and you find yourself at the emergency center," Avery said.

Now for these people, and thousands more across the state, it's just a waiting game, to see if they qualify for tax credits and can finally afford the coverage many of us take for granted.

The deadline to fill out and send in paper applications is Dec. 4.