They're singing about health care in Oregon.
On the same day that the state's Insurance Division announced it had approved health insurance rates for 2014, Cover Oregon, the group charged with setting up the new health insurance marketplace envisioned under federal reforms, unveiled a multimillion-dollar ad campaign complete with homegrown artists singing homespun songs.
The rates for individuals and small businesses can be glimpsed on the Insurance Division's website at www.oregonhealthrates.org.
The website contains a general breakdown of what small businesses and individuals of various ages can expect to pay for health insurance starting in January 2014, said Cheryl Martinis, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. People can shop for health insurance beginning in October.
While the Insurance Division approves insurance rates every year, there's more emphasis this year because the entire health insurance landscape is changing.
"It's a complete reset of the Oregon insurance market," Martinis said.
According to the Insurance Division's website, individuals and small businesses in Southern Oregon will have 11 insurance companies competing for their business.
Each company will offer four plans — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — and the benefits offered under each tier will be the same for all companies, which will allow for comparison shopping, said Lisa Morawski, communications manager for Cover Oregon.
The state Insurance Department website did not contain prices for platinum plans Wednesday, but it included basic rates for the bronze, silver and gold plans to give people an idea of what to expect next year.
The side-by-side comparison shows that rates for a 40-year-old nonsmoker in the Medford area would range from $166 a month to $283 under the bronze options, which is the lowest tier available.
The same person could pay from $221 to $344 for a silver plan and from $271 to $398 a month for the gold plan.
The state's website, which allows users to view rates being offered in different parts of the state, shows that health insurance rates will be slightly higher in Southern Oregon than in Portland and Salem, about the same as in Bend, and less than on the Oregon Coast.
Now that the state has approved health insurance rates, Cover Oregon can move forward with its job of building the framework for a one-stop marketplace where individuals and small businesses can buy health insurance and apply for assistance.
"Open enrollment starts in October, so everything we're doing is geared to that date," said Morawski.
Cover Oregon can now begin inputting the approved insurance rates into its system, and then it will start testing to get the kinks out before people start using it to buy the health insurance they'll be required to have by March 31, 2014.
While the framework of the health insurance marketplace is being built, Oregon singers, songwriters and other artists are being enlisted to help make people aware of the new health care landscape.
Cover Oregon is spending $3.2 million for the first phase of an ad campaign that will see print and broadcast ads running all over the state to let people know about the new online marketplace and how individuals, families and small businesses can compare and enroll in health coverage that fits their needs and budget, according to a news release issued Wednesday by Cover Oregon.
Two TV spots that have been cut so far are decidedly folksy, with guitar-picking singers touting the beauty of Oregon as scenes from Oregon Caves to the Columbia River flash across the screen.
One ad features a song called "Long Live Oregonians," an anthem sung by Portland-based musician Matt Sheehy of Lost Lander. The other contains an ode to Cover Oregon from folk singer Laura Gibson, a Coquille native who is currently touring with the Portland Cello Project.
The campaign also includes TV and radio spots from Lifesavas, Vikesh Kapoor, Edna Vazquez and Dave Depper, as well as artwork from artists across the state.
The TV, radio and online ads can be reviewed at coveroregon.com/ads.php.
Reach Features Editor David Smigelski at 541-776-8784 or by email at email@example.com.