by Paco Maribona, Certified Agent
Cover Oregon's annual open enrollment period for individual health insurance plans has been extended through April 30, 2014. While Cover Oregon still has problems & delays, response times are better. The most important thing is that people who may need the coverage can still get it now. It's the right thing to do, as it would be terrible if some Oregonians or legal residents needed the protection, but were not covered due to program glitches and delays. Fortunately, politicians understand this too.
Direct enrollments online or by paper applications are still a bit problematic, but folks can get free help in signing up or checking their status either from navigators, like through the Community Services Consortium in Newport, or certified agents in their communities. Certified agents can help them get through the process easier, especially when choosing the right plan. They can be found at coveroregon.com and there's no charge for their service. Some people qualify for cost sharing reductions on their copays and deductibles, but if they don't know this or how to use it, they'll miss out if they apply on their own.
Small employers who were shut out of the process while Cover Oregon focused its efforts on individuals, will still be able to get the up to 50% tax credits by going through agents directly to Insurers during April and likely beyond. Individuals can still sign up for plans outside the Cover Oregon exchange by going directly through agents too, but only until April 30th. Those who sign up by April 15th can get insured by May 1st; signers during the last half of April will get June 1st start dates. After April 30th, enrollments will be closed until next year, with sign ups at the end of 2014 for 2015. But uninsured folks will have to not only pay a penalty but also 100% of their medical bills until at least 2015.
IRS, not Cover Oregon, determines the tax credits people can qualify for. But if they don't apply, they'll leave many tax dollars on the table. Others may qualify for OHP (Oregon Health Plan), depending on their household income. For more info, contact your local certified agents, navigators, or Cover Oregon. If you've been unsure or reluctant to choose a plan, now is the time to do so, before it's too late.