Federal report shows Ore. health exchange lags other states

Federal report shows Ore. health exchange lags other states
The homepage of Cover Oregon's website.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A federal report released Wednesday shows just how far behind Oregon is with its rollout of a health insurance exchange.
   
After a little more than a month, a small fraction of 8,800 paper applications had been processed and no one has yet been enrolled.  Oregon was dead last among 48 states reporting the number of people whose applications had been checked to see whether they qualify for Medicaid or private insurance.
   
All 50 states have new insurance exchanges under the federal health care overhaul. The exchanges are supposed to be online marketplaces where people can find out whether they qualify for Medicaid - the insurance program funded by state and federal governments - or for tax subsidies to help purchase private insurance.
   
Oregon's exchange, known as Cover Oregon, has been plagued by technical problems preventing the website from accurately determining whether applicants are eligible for Medicaid. The organization has resorted to hiring 400 people to process applications by hand.
   
"We are getting more applications every day and have dedicated the resources to make sure everyone who wants coverage effective Jan. 1 gets it," said Michael Cox, a spokesman for Cover Oregon.
   
The new federal report, released by the Department of Health and Human Services, shows that Oregon accomplished even less in the first month after launching than the 36 states using a much-maligned website run by the federal government.
   
Oregon was one of three states that did not report the number of people who have been enrolled, although Cover Oregon has acknowledged that the number is zero. The others were Hawaii and Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia.
   
Through Nov. 4, workers found 425 people were eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program and 190 were eligible for private insurance. In Oregon's paper-based enrollment system, the eligibility determination is an early step in a lengthy process.  The results will be sent to applicants, who will then have the option to pick an insurance plan and enroll.
   
Cover Oregon announced Wednesday that it will hold six "application fairs" around the state to help people fill out paper applications, which are also available online at www.coveroregon.com . The events will be held between Nov. 20 and 25 in Medford, Eugene, Bend, Portland and Salem.
   
The federal health overhaul requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance next year or pay a fine and spells out minimum requirements for insurance plans.  About 145,000 Oregonians were notified that their existing insurance plans will be canceled at the end of the year because they don't meet the new minimum standards.
   
Amid a growing outcry about the cancellation notices, the state Insurance Division considered requiring insurance companies to delay the policy cancellations until the end of March. But officials decided against it because it might create more complications than it would resolve, said Cheryl Martinis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer and Business Services, which oversees the Insurance Division.

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