UCC Mainstream Online

Health insurance deadlines still dead silent

Individuals can work with a community partner or a certified insurance agent to apply for coverage.
Photo provided by Cover Oregon
Individuals can work with a community partner or a certified insurance agent to apply for coverage.

All Oregonians who want federally subsidized health insurance, including college students, must enroll with the state-run online health insurance marketplace, Cover Oregon, by Dec. 15 if they want to be covered come Jan. 1, 2014.

The Associated Press reports that approximately 600,000 people are uninsured in Oregon. These residents must have health insurance by March 31, 2014, or they will face a fine unless specific exemption requirements are met.

For people who do not have insurance by the deadline, the individual mandate requires households to pay one percent of their annual income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child under 18 years old—whichever is higher. This increases to two percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent for 2016 and later.

After March 31, 2014, open enrollment will end and individuals will have to wait until the following enrollment period next year.

Younger UCC students may not need to worry. The Affordable Care Act allows individuals 25 years old and younger to remain on their parent’s plan if they have one.

Some insurance companies have attempted to automatically switch individuals away from canceling plans to more expensive options according to Dylan Scott on Talking Points Memo

People who already have insurance may be at risk if their plan does not meet new federal requirements. This would mean some individuals may have to enroll with a different plan in order to remain insured. Approximately 150,000 health insurance plans face being canceled due to this issue, according to the AP.

While the estimated costs for plans through the ACA are typically cheaper due to subsidies, some insurance companies have attempted to automatically switch individuals away from canceling plans to more expensive options without informing them of choices by the same companies in the ACA marketplaces, according to .

People using the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool (OMIP) will also lose their coverage; however, the purpose of this state program was to insure people with pre-existing conditions who had been denied by private insurance companies, and the ACA prevents companies from doing so. This change in law means that individuals previously on OMIP will now be able to shop for private health insurance in the open market or through Cover Oregon.

Students at UCC and other individuals living below 138 percent of the poverty level will be able to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP)—up from 100 percent. Depending on the household size, this means that an individual living alone that makes $15,856 or less a year will be able to qualify for health care through Oregon’s Medicaid program starting Jan.1, 2014. In comparison, a family of four which makes $32,499 or less will also qualify.

Online registration through Cover Oregon has yet to be implemented, so the state has hired staff to handle paper applications and an electronically deliverable PDF file instead.

“We’ve hired up to 100 individuals with resources that Oregon has for its enrollment budget to essentially begin to accept and process paper applications” Gov. John Kitzhaber said during a Nov. 1 news conference.

Cover Oregon reports that more than 17,000 people have applied using the paper and PDF applications as of Oct. 31. No applicants have successfully been enrolled for the month of October.

The Cover Oregon PDF application can be filled out and sent electronically from the CoverOregon.com website, or it can also be printed out and mailed or faxed. A physical copy can be directly acquired from a local DHS office or requested by phone at 1-855-CoverOR.

Those hoping that citizens would be informed by the time the law came into full effect may have reason to be concerned as more than 50 percent of uninsured Americans still say they do not have enough information regarding the law, according to the Nov 1. Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. A poll released Sept. 28 by this same organization also revealed that nearly half of Americans did not know that the law attempts to expand Medicaid or offers subsidies for private insurance. More than 60 percent of uninsured in this September poll did not know that the health insurance exchanges opened Oct. 1.

Some people have blamed the media for failing to inform citizens regarding the law. A recent example some individuals point to is a quote by Chuck Todd, the political director and chief White House correspondent for MSNBC.

“What I always love is people who say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it” Todd said regarding why people have misconceptions regarding the ACA.

While authorities have claimed that they are continuing to work on getting the online application system to work through the Cover Oregon website, there has been no word as to when this feature will become available or even if it will be available before the deadlines arrive.