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Oregonians face Feb. 15 health insurance deadline

PORTLAND — Oregonians have just two more weeks to enroll in private health insurance this year, state officials reminded the public at a press conference on Thursday.

The deadline is Feb. 15 for buying new coverage or switching carriers or plans, and for qualifying for health insurance tax credits via the federal marketplace portal, HealthCare.gov. More than 92,000 have already enrolled.

Because the state abandoned the Cover Oregon portal and switched to HealthCare.gov, all Oregonians who bought 2014 coverage through Cover Oregon have to re-enroll via the federal site.

Previously uninsured Oregonians who qualify for federal tax subsidies must also use the federal portal to enroll.

The deadline applies both to people who buy coverage on HealthCare.gov and those who purchase it directly from carriers. If someone isn't sure whether they qualify for a subsidy, they should use HealthCare.gov. The federal portal can also determine if a person's low income makes him or her eligible for Medicaid.

People who enroll by Feb. 15 will have coverage starting on March 1. They must pay their 1st month's premium to be covered.

Cover Oregon Executive Director Aaron Patnode said more than 92,000 Oregonians have already enrolled for 2015 coverage. The figure covers the period through Jan. 23, and includes people who have not paid their premiums yet.

Of those enrolled for 2015 coverage, 81 percent qualified to receive financial assistance in the form of tax credits, officials said.

"We're very encouraged by the numbers," Patnode said. "It's safe to say people are now more confident that they can go online and enroll in one sitting, and that's driving enrollment success this year."

An additional 90,000 Oregonians who did not qualify for tax subsidies enrolled in private coverage outside HealthCare.gov, data shows.

About 77,000 Oregonians were enrolled in coverage through Cover Oregon last year. A total of 105,000 actually enrolled but some dropped off due to cancellations and terminations.

And some 130,000 additional Oregonians were enrolled in 2014 private coverage outside HealthCare.gov.

Officials did not have figures for how many Oregonians remain uninsured. A study released last September showed about 200,000 Oregonians, or 5 percent of the population, remained without coverage. It's not known how many of them have since enrolled.

Those who lack coverage may have to pay a penalty — 2 percent of a person's income or $325 per adult, whichever is more.

Officials are encouraging Oregonians to call insurance agents certified by Cover Oregon or community partners to get enrollment help — working with them is free. Cover Oregon will also be holding enrollment events in eight cities across the state in the coming two weeks.

Oregonians can find additional information at www.CoverOregon.com

Cover Oregon Executive Director Aaron Patnode speaks during a news conference Thursday in Portland. AP PHOTO.