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Health insurance help available for low- and middle-income residents

Job losses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and fires in Jackson County have increased the number of residents eligible for help paying for health insurance.

Oregonians who don’t get health insurance through their jobs can visit oregonhealthcare.gov to check on coverage options.

They may qualify for the Oregon Health Plan. Enrollment is open year-round for OHP, which primarily covers low-income residents.

The income limits are higher for the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, which offers help paying for coverage — leading to lower monthly premium costs for people.

The deadline to apply for that coverage in 2021 is Dec. 15.

Individuals making $51,040 or less per year, and families of four making $104,800 or less, may get help paying for coverage. The help lowered the average premium for a person to $145 per month this year, state officials said.

“A pandemic is no time to go without health insurance and the essential health benefits that come with it,” said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “You can get help paying for health insurance based on your income. Don’t assume you make too much to be eligible.”

With the help of the federal Affordable Care Act and other programs in recent years, Oregon made strides in lowering the rate of uninsured people in the state, Oregon officials said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 94% of Oregonians had health coverage. Since then, hundreds of thousands of residents have either lost their jobs or had their hours cut at work.

In September, the unemployment rate in Jackson County was 7.3%, compared to 3.3% last September, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Statistics for October will be released Nov. 17, the department said.

The Almeda fire that burned from northern Ashland to the southern outskirts of Medford destroyed 2,482 residential structures and 173 business structures, primarily in Phoenix and Talent.

The South Obenchain fire east of Shady Cove destroyed 33 residential structures and 56 other structures, such as outbuildings.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.