Cover Oregon director says some should look outside exchange for health insurance

State’s health insurance exchange’s website problems continue

By Lauren Dake / The Bulletin / @LaurenDake

Published Dec 17, 2013 at 12:01AM

Dates and deadlines

If you applied for Cover Oregon by Dec. 4, you have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 27 to choose a plan and have your enrollment packet back to Cover Oregon.

If you missed the deadline or your application was incomplete, you can buy coverage directly from an insurance carrier. You can view different plans on Cover Oregon’s website, www.CoverOregon.com.

Cover Oregon will host an enrollment fair on Thursday in Bend at the Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center, located at 3075 N. U.S. Highway 97.

SALEM — With only two weeks until the first of the year, the man charged with leading the state’s troubled health exchange, Cover Oregon, spent Monday morning laying out options people should consider outside of the state’s exchange if they want coverage by Jan. 1.

Bruce Goldberg, the interim director of Cover Oregon, noted there is a “lot of fear and confusion” facing consumers who are concerned they could be without insurance at the start of the year.

“Certainly we’re not where we wanted to be,” Goldberg said.

For those worried about a gap in coverage, he advised consumers either extend their current plans or go directly to the private market.

For people who believe they are eligible for a tax subsidy, they could miss a month of the subsidy by enrolling directly through an insurance carrier, but Goldberg said they could come back to the exchange in February and receive the credit. Those in a high-risk pool, the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool, will be automatically enrolled in a plan that gives them temporary coverage until the end of March.

For people who turned in a completed application form to Cover Oregon officials by Dec. 4, Goldberg said they should hear from someone from the exchange some time this week.

“We’ll be doing automated and personal calls this week to people who have an application in to let them know the status,” Goldberg said.

Once an applicant has received an enrollment packet from Cover Oregon, he or she has until Dec. 27 at 5 p.m. to pick a plan and return the packet to Cover Oregon.

Goldberg said Cover Oregon has hundreds of people working around the clock to process applications.

The Cover Oregon website continues to be plagued by problems, but the paper application process is starting to move more quickly, Goldberg said. Cover Oregon had enrolled 7,500 people in the private insurance market, a substantial jump from the 730 reported last week. That means about 7,500 people have chosen a plan and Cover Oregon has sent the information to an insurance carrier. Those people now have until Jan. 15 to pay their first payment to the carrier to be covered by the first of the year. About 13,000 people have been enrolled in Medicaid through Cover Oregon. But Goldberg said there are still as many as 30,000 applications from individuals and families who are waiting to hear back.

So far more than half of the applications received, Goldberg said, have been incomplete. Those people will not be enrolled through Cover Oregon by the first of the year. Another enrollment fair will be held in Bend on Thursday at the Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center.

Goldberg said Monday that Gov. John Kitzhaber has ordered an independent review of what went wrong with the state’s health insurance exchange. The state is also withholding payment of about $18 million from Oracle Corp., the company the state hired to build the website. The state is also working to hire outside technology experts to oversee the work being done on the website.

Goldberg did not say when the website would be operational but did say it likely won’t be until after January.

— Reporter: 541-554-1162, ldake@bendbulletin.com