What to do to ensure you have insurance on Jan. 1

What to do to ensure you have insurance on Jan. 1
The homepage of Cover Oregon's website.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — All the problems, delays and shifting deadlines from Cover Oregon, the state's troubled health insurance exchange, can be tough to keep track of. The Associated Press has compiled this guide to help figure out what you need to do if you want insurance coverage on Jan. 1. Penalties under the federal health care law don't kick in until March, so if you're uninsured and fine with that, you have a few more months before you'll face a penalty.

I Already Have Insurance

— Unless you've been notified by your employer or your insurance company that the plan is canceled, your coverage is continuing and you don't need to do anything. The vast majority of people with insurance fall into this category. If you're uninsured or have been notified that your coverage will be canceled, keep reading.

My Insurance Company Canceled My Plan, Then Told Me I Can Extend It

— Nearly every plan that had been cancelled because it didn't comply with standards has now been extended, but you must take action. Contact your insurance company to tell them you want your plan to continue. This may not be the best option for everybody.

I Applied to Cover Oregon by the Dec. 4 Deadline

There are two categories of people here.

— If you have received an enrollment packet back, you must select a plan and get it returned to Cover Oregon by 5 p.m. on Dec. 27. Officials recommend submitting the selection online or working with an insurance agent for expediency, but it's acceptable to mail it as long as it's received by the deadline.

— If you have not received an enrollment packet back, Cover Oregon's acting director, Dr. Bruce Goldberg, says the organization will try to get you one in time for you to select your plan before the Dec. 27 deadline. But he's not making any promises. If you need coverage on Jan. 1, you may want to consider buying a plan directly from an insurance company, either on your own or by working with an insurance agent. If you qualify for a subsidy, you won't be able to get it for the month of January, but you will be able to switch into a Cover Oregon plan with a tax credit later. You can review the available plans at www.CoverOregon.com — the same plans are available whether you buy through Cover Oregon or not.

I Applied to Cover Oregon after Dec. 4

— Your application will be processed eventually, but your coverage won't start until Feb. 1 at the earliest. If you need coverage in January, you will need to buy it directly from an insurance company. See the note above for more information.

I Need Insurance But Have Not Applied

— You will need to buy it directly from an insurance company. You can browse the options available in your area on www.CoverOregon.com and then contact the insurance company directly. You also can work with an insurance agent — you can find one in your area with a simple Internet search, or search on the Cover Oregon website.

I'm in the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool

— This is the state's high-risk pool for people who have been refused coverage by private insurers due to pre-existing conditions. If you've already purchased private insurance, you're set. If you have not, you'll be automatically enrolled in the new Temporary Medical Insurance Plan until the end of March, giving you more time to select a commercial insurance plan. More information is available at http://1.usa.gov/19O9GQA .