‘Cover Oregon’ not quite ready

Cover Oregon is a federally funded online health insurance marketplace, Sept. 20, 2013. (Cover Oregon photo)
Cover Oregon is a federally funded online health insurance marketplace, Sept. 20, 2013. (Cover Oregon photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN/AP) — The new “Cover Oregon” health exchange was expected to open its enrollment Tuesday.

But the Associated Press reports late Monday that the state’s insurance marketplace is still experiencing glitches — incorrectly determining eligibility for tax credits, the Oregon Health Plan and Healthy Kids. The problem is expected to be resolved later in October.

Beginning Tuesday, consumers still can find certified insurance agents or community organizations to help them start the process, and they can browse through insurance options and price estimates. But nobody will be able to enroll in coverage until the problems are fixed, according to the Associated Press.

Individuals have until Dec. 15 to enroll for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Starting next year, most Americans who don’t have health insurance will face fines.

This means the 600,000 or so Oregonians currently without health insurance can’t yet begin signing up for guaranteed-acceptance insurance options directly through the Cover Oregon website.

The Affordable Care Act — also known as Healthcare Reform or “Obama Care” — will eventually require everyone without coverage to get it or face, with some exceptions, fines. That requirement isn’t expected to roll out until 2015.

The law is sort of predicated on the assumption that people who do not have coverage eventually wind up costing the medical system a lot of money. So, within the next year, everyone is being required to get coverage.

Those who already have health insurance they like don’t have to change. But Michael Cox with Cover Oregon told KOIN 6 News that people with coverage and small businesses that offer health  insurance already may save money by checking out new plans being offered through Cover Oregon.

“We have a lot of the carriers who … will be selling plans through Cover Oregon,” Cox said. “[They're] all competing under one roof, where you can get apples to apples comparisons and make the choice that’s best for you.”

The downside is you will have to pay for health insurance if you don’t have it and you don’t pay for it now. There will be federal tax credits available to offset some of the cost.

CoverOregon.com goes live Tuesday. There will be a list of participating organizations, and visitors can click on the organization’s link to sign up. Sometime in the next six weeks or so visitors will be able to sign up directly on the CoverOregon.com website.

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, politicians and administrators launching Washington state’s new health care exchange Tuesday said nothing will stop the state from signing people up for health insurance.

UPDATE 10/1/13: A spokesperson for Washington’s health exchange initially told the Associated Press they were not concerned about technical glitches or being overwhelmed by consumer phone calls and web traffic on Washington Healthplanfinder.

However, that turned out not to be the case. The site was unavailable for a portion of its opening day Tuesday:

“As of 1:30 p.m. the Washington Healthplanfinder marketplace is back online,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, in a statement. “…Earlier in the day, we determined that consumers attempting to enroll in health coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder experienced slow loading times or difficulty completing their application. In order to remedy the issue as quickly as possible, we placed the marketplace into maintenance mode to help identify and correct these issues.”

On Monday Washington State Sen. Karen Keiser told the Associated Press that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and nothing that happens in Washington, D.C., this week will change that. She doesn’t expect protests to disrupt the launch. She added, however, that the first open enrollment period will last six months, so early protests will not stop what she calls this landmark in history.

– The Associated Press contributed information on Washington’s plan and late-breaking Cover Oregon updates.

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