By Lauren Dake

The Bulletin

SALEM — Cover Oregon officials said Tuesday that the state’s troubled online health care exchange is now partially working.

“We have made progress with the technology,” spokesman Michael Cox said. “Agents and community partners can process an entire enrollment (online), in most cases without any assistance from Cover Oregon staff.”

The state’s online exchange was expected to launch on Oct. 1 for insurance agents and community partners. A broader launch, meant for the public as a whole, was slated to begin a couple of weeks later. Neither happened; instead Cover Oregon had to hire hundreds of people to manually process paper applications.

Now, barring particularly complicated cases, community partners and insurance agents who have been trained by Cover Oregon should be able to use the website from start to finish to enroll someone. There are 2,000 trained agents and partners throughout the state, Cox said, none of whom should charge for their services.

There is still no date for when the website is expected to be fully operational and available to the public. Cox only had anecdotal evidence of agents successfully using the website and said he would have firmer numbers later in the week.

About 35,000 people have been enrolled in private plans through Cover Oregon’s manual application.

Beth Larsen with Volunteers in Medicine, a community agent in Bend, said it could take some time before the volunteers in her office are ready to enroll people online.

“Originally, we were trained on a PowerPoint on how the website was supposed to work,” she said.

It will take some “getting used to,” she said, “because we’ve been doing it all by hand.”

Past experience with the website has taught Larsen there will likely be bugs; Volunteers in Medicine is holding off until it is sure the site consistently works.

“We don’t want to put our volunteers through that,” she said.

When it’s consistent and working, she said, her office will jump on board.

“We’re continuing to do Cover Oregon enrollments the same way we’ve been doing them the last four months,” she said.

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

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