State News

Oregon Trails Health Sign-ups


<<< With no enrollments completed, the State is dead last among 48 reporting on the new law’s launch >>>

…The Register-Guard, November 14, 2013…

SALEM — A federal report released Wednesday shows just how far behind Oregon is with its roll out of a health insurance exchange.

After a little more than a month, a small fraction of 8,800 paper applications had been processed and no one has yet been enrolled.  Oregon was dead last among 48 states reporting the number of people whose applications had been checked to see whether they qualify for Medicaid or private insurance.

All 50 states have new insurance exchanges under the federal health care overhaul. The exchanges are supposed to be online marketplaces where people can find out whether they qualify for Medicaid — the insurance program funded by state and federal governments — or for tax subsidies to help purchase private insurance.

Nationally, the Obama administration revealed that just 26,794 people enrolled for health insurance during the first, flawed month of operations for the federal “Obamacare” website.

Adding in enrollment of more than 79,000 in the 14 states with their own websites, the nationwide number of 106,000 October sign-ups was barely one-fifth of what officials had projected — and a small fraction of the millions who have received widely publicized private coverage cancellations as a result of the federal law…

Oregon’s exchange, known as Cover Oregon, has been plagued by technical problems preventing its website from accurately determining whether applicants are eligible for Medicaid. The organization has resorted to hiring 400 people to process applications by hand.

“We are getting more applications every day and have dedicated the resources to make sure everyone who wants coverage effective January 1 gets it,” said Michael Cox, a spokesman for Cover Oregon.

The new federal report, released by the Department of Health and Human Services, shows that Oregon accomplished even less in the first month after launching than the 36 states using the federal government’s much-maligned website.

Oregon was one of three states that did not report the number of people who have been enrolled, although Cover Oregon has acknowledged that the number is zero.

Through Nov. 4, workers found that 425 people were eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program and 190 were eligible for private insurance. In Oregon’s paper-based enrollment system, the eligibility determination is an early step in a lengthy process. The results will be sent to applicants, who will then have the option to pick an insurance plan and enroll.

Cover Oregon announced Wednesday that it will hold six “application fairs” around the state, including one in Eugene, to help people fill out paper applications, which are also available online at .

The federal health overhaul requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance next year or pay a fine and spells out minimum requirements for insurance plans. About 145,000 Oregonians were notified that their existing insurance plans will be canceled at the end of the year because they don’t meet the new minimum standards.


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