Briefly: Oregon Enrollment In Marketplace Down 6 Percent

State officials say the drop could be linked to uncertainty over the Affordable Care Act.

The preliminary figures for health insurance enrollment by individuals on the federal exchange show a 6 percent drop from last year.

In its latest statistics this week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said 148,479 Oregonians had signed up for coverage for 2019. The number could grow in the coming days as federal authorities tally those who enrolled between 9 p.m. and midnight on Saturday and those who were allowed to enroll after the deadline because they left their contact information when the call center was overloaded.

A number of factors could have caused the drop, “including uncertainty stoked by the federal government," said Elizabeth Cronen, spokeswoman for the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace.

“Once we have the final numbers, including more detailed data breakouts, we can begin to assess the factors that were at play this year,” she said in an email.

Next year in Oregon, premium rates will be higher than for 2018 -- between 5 and 10 percent. Monthly premiums for a 40-year-old non-smoker in the Portland area range from $415 a month for Kaiser Permanente. Still, that marks a smaller increase than during the years after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Just as open enrollment was ending this year, a judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act, fueling speculation about the future of health-care coverage. If the ACA disappears, just about everyone will be affected, from those buying on the individual marketplace to seniors with Medicare.

But heading into 2019, the law remains in effect though the individual mandate requiring that everyone has coverage is disappearing. 

Most people who sign up in the marketplace qualify for a tax credit on their premiums, which they can take monthly or when they file their taxes. But consumers need to be on the lookout for their first bill. Their insurance will not go into effect until they pay their first premium, Cronen said.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].

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