Governor Kitzhaber announced Wednesday that Oregonians now have an extra month, until April 30th to apply for private health insurance, an extension granted due to continued problems with the Cover Oregon online health insurance exchange.
The announcement came following conversations between the Governor and Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Oregon’s extended application period is in response to technology issues that lengthened the time it takes to apply for and enroll in health insurance through Cover Oregon, the state's health insurance exchange.
“I know that for too many Oregonians, the Cover Oregon website and its ongoing technical problems have created delays, confusion, and frustration,” said Kitzhaber. “I worked with Secretary Sebelius to give Oregonians more opportunity to secure health care coverage and get the financial help they deserve.”
Under HHS guidelines, each state may have its own approach to managing extended application periods.
Oregon’s extended application period is targeted to people purchasing private health insurance coverage either through Cover Oregon or directly from an insurance carrier.
People who purchase through Cover Oregon can access tax credits and other financial assistance. Oregonians who are eligible for the Oregon Health Plan or Healthy Kids can apply for coverage year round.
Kitzhaber said, “Cover Oregon has successfully completed more than 175,000 enrollments for Oregonians across our state. I want to make sure that people know they can still apply. They have time to do so, for themselves and their families, and they should take advantage right away.” Oregonians have until April 30 to submit their application for private coverage.
Oregonians can find an agent or community partner in their area who can help them enroll in one sitting by visiting CoverOregon.com. They can also go to CoverOregon.com to find resources to apply, including an online PDF application they can submit electronically.
Those who apply for coverage from a private plan through Cover Oregon before April 30 and then later enroll will not be subject to a potential federal tax penalty.
People who apply and enroll in plans outside of Cover Oregon between April 1 and April 30 may have to pay a partial federal penalty.
The Oregon Insurance Division will provide more information about how penalties may apply to individuals who do not apply for coverage through Cover Oregon. Answers to questions about the extended application period can be found here.
Help With Tax Credits for Small Businesses
The governor also announced an agreement between Cover Oregon and participating insurance companies that will help small businesses access federal tax credits.
Qualified small businesses that purchase a Cover Oregon-certified plan after April 1 directly from an insurance company will be able to access tax credits for 2014.
“This is an important step forward to support small businesses and get health insurance coverage for more people,” said Kitzhaber.
For the small business tax credit, Cover Oregon will provide an eligibility notice to Oregon employers that qualify to participate.
Eligible businesses must have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees; purchase a “qualified health plan” certified by Cover Oregon; and contribute at least 50 percent of the premium cost for employee coverage.
With confirmed eligibility, employers can apply for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit when filing their 2014 taxes. The Internal Revenue Service, not Cover Oregon, determines eligibility for the tax credit.
Cover Oregon developed the new process for facilitating the employer tax credit in cooperation with Atrio, Health Republic, Kaiser Permanente, Moda, Oregon’s Health Co-op, PacificSource, Providence, Trillium, Best Life, Dental Health Services, Guardian, and ODS. “Insurance companies have provided us a great deal of flexibility to serve Oregon small businesses,” said the Governor.
Oregonians with questions about how to apply can visit CoverOregon.com or call 1-855-CoverOR. The Cover Oregon service center is open Monday-Friday from 8am to 8pm, and Saturday-Sunday from 8am-6pm. Additional information on small business tax credit may be found here.