PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon's insurance marketplace wants you to know you can still apply for coverage despite a website that doesn't work.
"(Oregonians) need to know that Cover Oregon is open for business, that we are processing applications, that if they would like to have coverage on January 1, they should apply now," said Elizabeth Baxter, Cover Oregon board chairwoman.
Until now, the board had set a Dec. 15 deadline to sign up for health insurance. But the website doesn't work.
The alternative is to sign up the old-school way: on paper.
Last week, the group said it was going to hire 400 employees to enter those applications by hand.
But are the processors going to be able to get all those applications processed in time to meet the federal deadline?
"Yes," said Baxter.
How can she guarantee that?
"You know, guarantee's a hard word. What I would say is that we're committed," she said.
Baxter and the rest of the Cover Oregon board met with its executive director, Rocky King, Thursday about the debacle.
"It's on me on this," King said. "Last month we thought the system was going to be up."
Baxter said in an interview with KATU that "We are confident that Rocky has a lot of resources that he can pull in."
The board is backing off of the Dec. 15 deadline Cover Oregon initially set for people to apply. A representative for the software company, Oracle, says it's unclear when the website will work.
"I believe you're fumbling away the goodwill that should be around thousands, tens of thousands, of more Oregonians getting health insurance," said board member Ken Allen.
Thomas Budnar, vice president of Oracle, said "We are not happy with the fact that the schedule has slipped. This has visibility in our company."
Baxter says they could activate the website now, but the experience wouldn’t be pleasant for anyone who tried to use it.
The Cover Oregon board has given its executive director until next Friday to get them plans that will guarantee every paper application will be processed to meet the federal deadline in January – and to convince them that there is an end in sight to the website problems.
Cover Oregon Sign-Up Fairs: (Register for events here)
Portland – Sunday, Nov. 24. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
1000 NE Multnomah Street
Portland, OR 97232
Salem – Monday, Nov. 25. Noon to 8 p.m.
Oregon State Fair & Exposition Center, Cascade Hall
2330 17th Street NE
Salem, OR 97301