Cover Oregon deadlines move again

Cover Oregon announced today that Oregonians who want new health coverage to take effect Jan. 1 should submit applications postmarked by Dec. 4.

The director of Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange told state lawmakers this morning that he hopes to have the online registration system fully functional for individuals by Dec. 16.

Rocky King made his first appearance before a legislative committee since the insurance exchange, known as Cover Oregon, missed the Oct. 1 deadline to allow people to enroll online. The exchange is intended to let people shop for coverage, compare plans and find out whether they qualify for tax credits under the federal health law.

Cover Oregon has resorted to processing applications by hand because the online portal didn't work correctly.

King faced only Democrats in the morning hearing in a committee that oversees information technology projects, because the panel's two Republicans were not there. He's likely to face tough questions later Wednesday from the House and Senate health care committees.

King said the latest projections show the system should be ready on Dec. 9 for insurance agents and community groups that have contracts with Cover Oregon, and for all individuals on Dec. 16. Features for small businesses and Native American tribes will come later.

Cover Oregon officials have sought to downplay the problems, saying people can still sign up for insurance through paper applications. On Wednesday they said applications should be postmarked by Dec. 4 to ensure they are processed in time for coverage to begin on Jan. 1.

"We're not broken. It's just not done," King told lawmakers.

The biggest challenge for programmers has been determining whether people are eligible for tax credits, Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. King said that feature has been launched for insurance agents and community groups, although applications still must be submitted through the mail.

Cover Oregon has lowered its projections for first-year enrollments from a minimum of 128,000 people to 114,000, King said.

— Staff and wire reports

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