Signs of life seen in Cover Oregon enrollment effort

Eight weeks after the scheduled rollout of Cover Oregon's health insurance exchange, the system lurched into action Tuesday.

The promised bells and whistles still are producing more clanking and shrill sounds, but community partners, who were expected to take the digital field on Oct. 2, are now able to enter the portal.

While community partners can register people and determine whether they are eligible for tax credits or the Oregon Health Plan, consumers still aren't able to shop around for plans through the exchange system.

"It's still a little limited, but we can now show people what they qualify for, whether it's tax credits or if it looks like they're going to be on the Oregon Health Plan," said Erin Scow, who manages Community Health Center's enrollment assistance. "We can submit it, but the state is still having to send out paper packets in response to those applications."

Community partners and insurance agents got word Monday afternoon that they could begin using the portal.

"The sooner applications are submitted, the more likely applicants are to have plenty of time to make plan selections and complete enrollment," the memo from Cover Oregon stated. "Therefore, we're pleased that the portal's eligibility function is available to help you speed this process."

Community Health Center registered two client families Tuesday morning. One qualified for the Oregon Health Plan and the second had an income level exceeding the poverty line by 400 percent. That means the family, while destined for the exchange system, did not qualify for tax credits.

"The family from Ashland, qualifying for the Oregon Health Plan, had a letter from the state telling us they qualified," Scow said. "The Medford-area family said they were expecting not to qualify. They hadn't had their insurance canceled, they just had never been insured before."

Cover Oregon is scrambling to enroll people before Dec. 15, the cutoff date for implementing coverage on Jan. 1.

The agency's staff will be in Medford from noon to 8 p.m. today, registering people at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center, 2250 Biddle Road, near the Interstate 5 exit.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at Edge.

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