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Cover Oregon reaches out

Jefferson County providers


by: HOLLY M. GILL - Martti Rahi and Kayla Whitaker, agents at PayneWest Insurance, of Madras, are assisting people who signing up for insurance under the Cover Oregon program.With more than one in five Jefferson County residents not covered by health insurance, Cover Oregon, Oregon's online health insurance marketplace, aims to help those people find affordable coverage.

The website CoverOregon.com was rolled out Oct. 1, to allow Oregonians to find and purchase health insurance, but so far, the website has been experiencing problems.

However, there are eight local agents and community partners who have been trained to assist people, including Kayla Whitaker and Martti Rahi, of PayneWest Insurance.

"We are here to offer guidance, review current coverage, and assist both groups and individuals in navigating health insurance with the Affordable Care Act," said Whitaker, referring to the national plan passed in 2010 to overhaul health care, which required states to set up the online insurance exchange.

"We have the ability to use the Cover Oregon website, in addition to private exchanges, depending upon each client's individual needs," she said.

Despite the problems with the Cover Oregon exchange, Rahi said, "We're probably ahead of the national one. It's had its bugs and issues that they're working very hard to resolve."

The Cover Oregon program is designed to serve individuals, families and employers with one to 50 employees. On the website, individuals and employers can also check their eligibility and apply for public health care programs, such as the Oregon Health Plan and Healthy Kids, as well as financial assistance.

For people whose income falls between 138-400 percent of the federal poverty level, said Whitaker, "There are potential subsidies out there for you, but it depends on whether your employer offers you a plan, or your spouse's employer offers it to you. It would disqualify you from a subsidy on the exchange."

Community partners who can help people understand the new health care plans include Mosaic Medical Madras, at 541-475-7800 or www.mosaicmedical.org, and Warm Springs Health and Wellness at 541-553-1196 or www.ihs.gov.

Other agents who have earned the life and health insurance license to assist people with enrollment include Diane Anderson, of Culver, at 503-538-4000, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Leroy Ellis, of Leroy Ellis Insurance, at 541-475-3989, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Marie Ennis, of Madras, at 541-475-3428, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; and Mark Simmons, of Central Oregon Insurance, at 541-777-0370, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Whitaker can be reached at 541-325-6901, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and Rahi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

"When a new or existing client calls in, we take the time to listen and discuss this unprecedented reform of our health care system," said Whitaker.

"While the Cover Oregon website is not allowing full online enrollments at this time, the public does have the capacity to browse multiple plans and compare costs," she said. "When we do get the green light for online enrollment, we can prepare summary comparisons using the plans that clients have researched, ensuring as smooth and streamlined a process as possible."

After the first week, Michael Cox, communications specialist for Cover Oregon, said that they were heartened by the volume of interest. "Over 230,000 visited CoverOregon.com and our call center got over 7,000 calls." This week, the total number of visits had risen to 430,000.

In Jefferson County, Cox said that eight insurance carriers would offer plans through Cover Oregon: Atrio, Bridgespan, Health Republic, Health Net, Moda, Providence, Trillium and PacificSource.

The open enrollment period extends through March 15, for plans beginning April 1. For those who want their insurance coverage to begin Jan. 1, enrollment must be completed by Dec. 15.

Cover Oregon, a public corporation, is governed by a nine-member board of directors appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oregon Senate. It is currently funded by federal grant money, but will eventually be funded by an administrative fee charged to insurance carriers.

For more information, visit CoverOregon.com.



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