With Oregon lagging behind other states in enrolling residents in private health insurance, the United Community Action Network will hold another wave of meetings in January in Douglas County to sign people up for coverage.
It is too late to receive coverage by Jan. 1, but UCAN Cover Oregon Program Coordinator Susie Johnston-Forte said applicants who sign up by the 15th of the month can receive coverage by the first of the following month.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans must sign up for health insurance by March 31 or pay a penalty.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that 70,000 eligible Oregonians applied for health insurance through the exchange by the Dec. 4 deadline to receive coverage by Jan. 1.
Of those, 36,000 had been enrolled by Christmas Eve and some workers hired to process paper applications were scheduled to work during a Christmas night shift.
Two-thirds of the enrolled Oregonians qualified for the Oregon Health Plan and one-third chose private insurance plans.
Qualified applicants were required to choose a plan by 5 p.m. today to receive coverage by the first of the year.
Johnston-Forte said 12 trained UCAN volunteers will answer questions and help residents fill out applications at the January meetings.
Applications will be faxed to Salem the following day, and the state responds with an eligibility determination within about 30 days, Johnston-Forte said.
A website the state set up to process applications has failed, forcing the uninsured to file paper applications.
Johnston-Forte said signing up is easy.
“There’s a lot of confusion around the Cover Oregon and the Affordable Care Act, but the fact is, it’s a really simple process,” Johnston-Forte said.
She said most people who have applied with the UCAN Cover Oregon team have qualified either for the Oregon Health Plan or for tax credits that can be applied to premiums. A family of four that makes less than $95,000 a year qualifies for subsidies, she said.
“It’s very generous, actually,” she said.
Johnston-Forte said many of the people she has helped sign up for coverage have never had health insurance before.
“The people that I’m seeing are really thankful to be getting health care coverage,” she said.