SALEM, Ore. (AP -- Gov. John Kitzhaber is downplaying problems that have plagued Cover Oregon, the state's health insurance exchange.

The governor said Friday the state should be judged on whether people who want insurance are able to sign up, not whether the website works.

State officials urged people seeking insurance to fill out a paper form, which will have to be processed by hand. The paper-based enrollment process will take weeks.

The online enrollment was supposed to simplify the process, allowing people to complete the process in as little as an hour. But the software has been unable to accurately determine whether some people are eligible for tax credits or public assistance.

As a result, nobody has been able to enroll in health insurance through Oregon's exchange.

There is no timetable for when the website will be fully operational.


News release from the governor's office:

Governor Kitzhaber Announces Additional Efforts to Boost Health Care Coverage by January 1

Urges Oregonians to submit application for coverage by December 15

Portland, Ore. -- Gov. John Kitzhaber joined with leaders from the Oregon Health Authority and Cover Oregon Friday to announce expanded efforts to boost enrollment in health insurance plans by January 1.

Along with Lix Baxter, Board Chair of Cover Oregon, and Dr. Bruce Goldberg, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, the governor outlined expanded state resources for ensuring Oregonians can sign up for health insurance benefits that start January 1.

“This is about more than a website,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “This is about making sure that every Oregonian who wants health insurance coverage is able to get it.”

While acknowledging challenges associated with signing up for health insurance through Cover Oregon, the governor reinforced that Oregonians have affordable and quality choices available to them through the health insurance exchange.

To ensure Oregonians are able to sign up for benefits, the governor has asked the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Insurance Division, and the Department of Administrative Services to help process paper applications.

“As Cover Oregon works to get online enrollment up and running, we are adding new sign-up options and more resources so that Oregonians get the insurance they want and need,” Kitzhaber said. “Together with the insurance agents and community partners who are really stepping up, we are going to do whatever it takes to get this done for Oregonians.”

The Governor also called on OHA to increase outreach to people eligible for fast-track enrollment to the Oregon Health Plan. Dr. Bruce Goldberg described the outreach strategies for reaching people eligible for coverage.

“We will make sure that everyone who has the Oregon Health Plan fast-track option knows about it,” Goldberg said. “So far, we’ve signed up 70,000 people through the fast-track option, the equivalent of more than 10 percent of Oregon’s uninsured rate, which frees up capacity so staff can process other applications quickly and accurately.”

Liz Baxter discussed how people seeking coverage can access and submit an application.

Howard "Rocky" King, executive director of Cover Oregon, said, "The Cover Oregon technical team is working hard to make sure the site works for everyone. In the meantime, we have a system in place to enroll all Oregonians who want coverage.

"We know many Oregonians have been waiting months or even years for health insurance, and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure everyone who applies by December 15 has coverage beginning January 1.”

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