Cover Oregon Board Takes Little Action Before Nov. 15 Open Enrollment

The Cover Oregon board voted to cancel its November meeting and appears ready to hand over the keys to the insurance exchange to legislators, who have vowed to fold the remaining state insurance exchange functions into the Insurance Division or the Oregon Health Authority.

The Cover Oregon board met Thursday at the Oregon Medical Association in Tigard in what felt like an increasingly resigned, lame-duck air, as the sand runs out of the hourglass on the state’s flopped effort to operate its own insurance exchange.  

After the governor and multiple legislators from both major political parties echoed each others’ cries to shut down Cover Oregon, it now seems inevitable that the Legislature will  pull the plug on the quasi-independent public corporation come February.

Rather than taking any action to decide its own fate, the Cover Oregon board voted to not meet at all for two more months as the first open enrollment with healthcare.gov gets off the ground in 37 days.

“We should turn all our energies to successfully completing the task before us,” said Dr. George Brown, the president of Legacy Health, who sits on the board. “Let the Legislature decide what ultimately the future of the exchange will be.”

Much of the nearly three-hour meeting was spent reviewing the same discussions and material from Cover Oregon’s last meeting in September.

Once open enrollment begins on Nov. 15, all Oregon consumers who had signed up for a 2014 health plan -- now numbering 103,000 -- will have until Dec. 15 to sign up on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, so that they can ensure uninterrupted coverage. All current policies will expire Dec. 31.

Cover Oregon board chairwoman Liz Baxter told the agency’s staff that the Dec. 15 deadline needed to be pounded into their message to the public. Cover Oregon plans to start a broadcast media ad blitz Nov. 17 to remind people of their need to re-enroll.

For those less concerned about uninterrupted coverage, open enrollment will last until Feb. 15, a three month window that will apply to the entire individual health insurance market, not just policies sold on the online insurance exchange.

State transition director Tina Edlund said that all 15 insurance companies selling plans in Oregon on the insurance exchange are ready to go with the federal exchange.

People eligible for the Oregon Health Plan will not have the rush to maintain coverage. Current members are receiving a form in the mail to return if they still qualify, while new members can sign up at any time for coverage. The Oregon Health Authority had hoped to handle sign-ups but for most people who are eligible for state medical assistance because of their income, the best route will be to head to healthcare.gov along with people buying private individual health insurance.

Refugees, pregnant women and people on disability are still encouraged to go to oregonhealthcare.gov for enrollment.

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