PORTLAND -- Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber downplayed problems that have plagued Cover Oregon in a Friday press conference and said he would deploy additional resources to get residents enrolled in health care plans.
The governor said the state should be judged on whether people who want insurance are able to sign up, not whether the website works.
The local rollout of the Affordable Care Act, Cover Oregon launched Oct. 1 and has yet to enroll a single resident in a private insurance plan.
State officials urged people seeking insurance to fill out a paper form, which will have to be processed by hand. The paper-based enrollment process will take weeks.
The online enrollment was supposed to simplify the process, allowing people to complete the process in as little as an hour. But the software has been unable to accurately determine whether some people are eligible for tax credits or public assistance.
There is no timetable for when the website will be fully operational.
“This is about more than a website,” Kitzhaber said. “This is about making sure that every Oregonian who wants health insurance coverage is able to get it.”
He announced that he would hire 100 new workers to help process paper applications in order to get all Oregonians who want coverage enrolled by a Dec 15, 2014 deadline.
The numbers of Oregonians who must enroll in new health care plans is daunting.
But the governor said he has asked the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Insurance Division, and the Department of Administrative Services to help process paper applications.
“As Cover Oregon works to get online enrollment up and running, we are adding new sign-up options and more resources so that Oregonians get the insurance they want and need,” the Governor said. “Together with the insurance agents and community partners who are really stepping up, we are going to do whatever it takes to get this done for Oregonians.”
It’s estimated that 600,000 Oregon residents don't have health insurance. The challenge is aggravated by the fact that the ACA sets new minimum standards for health care policies and eliminates plans it sees as substandard. By that measure, some 150,000 Oregonians who currently have insurance will lose their coverage.
The Statesman Journal reported that Cover Oregon has received more than 7,000 paper applications and it's created 2,837 online customer accounts. All told, nearly three-quarters of a million Oregonians will need to sign up for new health insurance.
The governor gave his public address from the state office building in Northeast Portland.