Cover Oregon reports 36,000 people now enrolled

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s health insurance exchange has plowed through its bevy of unprocessed applications and determined that about 70,000 Oregonians are eligible for health coverage starting Jan. 1, either through private plans or the state’s Medicaid program.

Qualified applicants must choose a plan by 5 p.m. Friday, and the first payment must be received by the customer’s selected insurance company by Jan. 15.

“I don’t want to be definitive because I’m sure there are going to be some exceptions, but I think we’ve pretty much gone through all the completed, on-time applications,” Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox said Tuesday.

The remaining applications are those that were either incomplete or were turned in after the Dec. 4 deadline to obtain subsidized coverage by Jan. 1.

Oregon has been the slowest state to enroll people in private insurance, though its pace quickened several weeks ago when it hired or reassigned more than 400 workers to manually process applications. The state has had to rely on old-fashioned paper applications because its online enrollment site has failed since Day One.

Cox could not estimate how many applications submitted by the Dec. 4 deadline were deemed incomplete. Common errors included missing signatures and the omission of key financial information. In most cases, those people with faulty applications have not been contacted by Cover Oregon workers.

“We have followed up with some, but our priority had to be processing those complete, on-time applications; the manpower necessary to do that was significant,” Cox said. “Now that we’re getting through this Jan. 1 enrollment deadline, we’ll make a concerted effort to get back to everybody and let them know how they can complete their application.”

The earliest those applicants could get subsidized coverage is February. Those who need coverage Jan. 1 can go outside the exchange and apply directly with an insurance carrier.

About 36,000 Oregonians have enrolled through Cover Oregon as of Tuesday — 12,000 in private plans and 24,000 through the Oregon Health Plan, which is the state’s version of Medicaid. Another 100,000 people receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program have used a fast-track process to sign up for the Oregon Health Plan.

Cover Oregon will have a night shift processing applications on Christmas. Its call center, however, closed at 2 p.m. Tuesday and won’t reopen until Thursday at 8 a.m.

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