PORTLAND – Residents rushing to apply for insurance through the state's health care exchange, Cover Oregon, in time for a Dec. 5 deadline ran up against a largely non-functioning website Wednesday and phone lines that were either offline or busy.
Those wanting subsidized coverage, or coverage through the Oregon Health Plan had to file by fax or by mail with a Dec. 4 postmark in order to get coverage by New Year's Day 2014.
Unlike the federal insurance exchange at HealthCare.gov, Oregon's site, CoverOregon.com is still unable to enroll applicants online.
Those looking for help Wednesday via Cover Oregon’s phone number at 855-268-3767 experienced busy signals, disconnects, calls not in service messages and long waits.
"I had to call the Cover Oregon office four times before I didn't get a busy signal," said applicant Travis Rush. "Once I got connected I was on hold for 31 minutes before someone picked up the phone."
Michael Cox, spokesman for Cover Oregon, said that an eleventh hour rush by applicants was swamping the system.
"We are experiencing high volume in our call center because today is the deadline," Cox said.
Cover Oregon has received more than 55,000 applications so far. Cox said they receive from 1,000 to 2,000 applications a day.
Former Cover Oregon Director Rocky King stated in Nov. that the site would not be fixed until after the Jan. 1. coverage deadline had passed. King temporarily stepped down as of Tuesday, citing health concerns.
Those wanting to enroll in insurance and be covered by Jan. 1 need to mail their information in. In recent weeks, Gov. John Kitzhaber has had to hire some 400 workers to process paper applications by mail and over the phone.
That may have contributed to at least three security breaches last month when applicants received documents in the mail that included the names and Social Security numbers of complete strangers.
The website can be used for shopping and comparing coverage plans, and for downloading PDFs and filling out some forms.
If the state determines a person is eligible for coverage, an enrollment packet will be sent in the mail. The packet then has to be complete and mailed back by Dec. 15.
Anyone who misses Wednesday’s application date or the enrollment date on Dec. 15 can still enroll. Open enrollment will continue until March 31. 2014.
How it works: Cover Oregon