Setting out on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s was dicey business.
The path was hazardous and the outcome was uncertain. Some went willingly, but others resented the hardships and questioned why they couldn’t just stay home and cope with the problems they knew. They may have reasoned that had to be better than striking out on a new frontier with only a promise of improving their lives.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re seeing a lot of parallels between the Oregon Trail and Cover Oregon.
The former brought hundreds of thousands of settlers, ranchers, farmers, entrepreneurs and their families across half the nation to fresh starts in the West. The latter, launched online Tuesday, was designed to bring affordable coverage to hundreds of thousands of low- and moderate-income Oregonians who have been going without health insurance.
Uncertainty appears to be a hallmark shared by each of the two ventures.
Oregonians, of course, are not alone in exploring insurance marketplaces this week. Cover Oregon is just one state’s response to the Affordable Care Act, which requires Americans to sign up for health insurance by Dec. 15. Those who have coverage through their employers can continue to get it. Those who don’t will use health exchanges to shop for plans and find out if they are eligible for federal subsidies.
There have been unforeseen glitches on federal and state health exchange pages, though none of it was related to the federal government shutdown. High volumes of traffic generated “please wait” messages at HealthCare.Gov. Officials had expected to begin enrolling people in Cover Oregon Tuesday.
However, technical problems at coveroregon.com meant users were limited to browsing plans. In the process, many hit unexpected walls as they struggled to navigate premiums, tax credits, deductibles, provider networks and the like.
It’s tempting to ball up in the fetal position and caterwaul until it all goes away.
However, that’s not very productive. As U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio pointed out last week at a Roseburg town hall meeting, now is not the time to debate the merits and demerits of “Obamacare.” It’s here, it’s happening and it’s worth taking some time to explore how it can work for those who have been doing without insurance.
Given that a national survey reports nearly 1 in 5 Douglas County residents is uninsured, Cover Oregon is poised to have a significant impact within county borders.
If DeFazio is correct, those already insured will benefit because they will no longer see 10 percent of their premiums applied to pay for the uninsured.
The health exchanges also offer options for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
Meanwhile, local businesses and offices including Gordon Wood Insurance Agency in Roseburg, Atrio Health Plans, the Umpqua Community Health Center, United Community Action Network and Winston’s South River Medical Clinic have or are making staff members and/or volunteers available to help consumers understand their options.
Cover Oregon will require effort to get past the ruts in its road. The wagons are rolling, and the horizon may seem far ahead. But it’s reachable. And nobody is expected to travel it alone.