Marketplace Insurance Enrollment Extended

Sunday’s deadline for signing up for health insurance through the federal marketplace has been extended two days following a federal bottleneck.

There was an overflow of people trying to sign up for coverage online over the weekend, so the electronic system put them in a virtual "waiting room," said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. Data has not yet been released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on the extent of the problem, and it's not yet clear how many Oregonians got stuck or how many have signed up for insurance.

The deadline was extended nationwide. People who aren’t covered through their jobs and aren’t on Medicare or Medicaid now have until Tuesday 11:59 p.m. to enroll in coverage for 2020. Individuals can sign up online -- at OregonHealthcare.gov -- or call 855-268-3767 (toll-free) or (TTY: 855-889-4325). 

The extension only applies to those who have not yet logged into the system, enrolled or left their contact information. Those people will be contacted in the days ahead. But if someone just didn’t get around to enrolling or gave up on Sunday, they now have a short extension.

After Tuesday night’s deadline, people will be able to buy health insurance only when they lose access to other coverage or have a major life change, like adding a child to their family.

Oregon is among seven states that have a marketplace partnership with the federal government. Twenty-seven others only use the federal exchange.

Elizabeth Cronen, spokeswoman for the marketplace, advised Oregonians to do their homework before trying to enroll to shorten the sign-up process. The marketplace is where individuals must go to get a federal subsidy for premiums. Consumers can shorten the enrollment process by going to OregonHealthCare.gov/windowshop to check on subsidy requirements and coverage options.

Cronen said residents don’t have to worry about getting caught in a bottleneck while doing research.

“Our site can handle Oregon traffic,” Cronen said. “The bottom line is start now and move with all deliberate speed if you need coverage for 2020.”

Last year, about 75 percent of Oregonians who enrolled through the marketplace received federal help with premiums, whittling them down to an average of $140 a month.

Many paid less.

According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 38,400 people in Oregon qualify for an essentially free bronze plan, thanks to the subsidies. (Oregon requires that plans offer abortion coverage, which is not covered by federal money. That typically costs $1 a month.)

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].

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