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What you need to know about health insurance and Cover Oregon

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Mon, March 31 2014 at 6:27 PM, Updated: Mon, March 31 2014 at 10:29 PM

Medford, Ore. -- For most people across the nation, the deadline for getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act was March 31st. 

However, Oregonians have a bit more time to get health insurance. Governor John Kitzhaber recently announced a new deadline of April 30th.

What do families need to do?
   
Families are encouraged to sign up for health insurance by either  going to an insurance agency or through a community partner. If people are not insured by April 30th, it could mean stiff penalties.

It hasn't been an easy task to sign up for many people who are unsure of the details surrounding the state's new healthcare exchange, Cover Oregon.

"I just didn't know that there was a deadline," said Medford resident Janice Cox.

Cox isn't the only one who has put off signing up for health insurance through Cover Oregon.

"It can be a little daunting," she said.

People encouraged to be pro-active

However, now that Oregon's deadline has been extended, insurance brokers said it's important people be pro-active about their healthcare.

"Right now the time is running out so it's really important to get in front of somebody that can help them through the entire process," said Christine Hopkins, an independent insurance broker who works for Insurance Lounge in Grants Pass and Medford.

According to Hopkins, just because you've applied on the Cover Oregon website, doesn't mean you're in the clear. An insurance plan still needs to be selected.

"Cover Oregon itself is the administration behind it, they're not health insurance," said Hopkins.

Penalties for people without health insurance

If people procrastinate on getting health insurance, and don't have it by April 30th, penalties will follow. According to the Cover Oregon website, it will be $95 for each adult in a family and $45 per child (under 18 years of age) or 1% of the family's household income, whichever is greater.

"It's not just 1% per family, it's per family member," explained Hopkins.

To give you an idea of what that looks like, for Jackson County the average household income is about $57,000 according to the Oregon Employment Department. 1% of that is $570 and that's just for one person.

Factor in other uninsured family members and it could quickly skyrocket to thousands of dollars.

Hopkins said she's heard from many people who say the plans through Cover Oregon are expensive. However, she said the cost looks to have gone up because insurance is now covering more preventable healthcare.

Meantime, Cox said she's looking forward to figuring out which options are available to her.

"Perhaps it'd be a good idea to check into it," said Cox.

The potential insurance options and potential penalties motivating people like Janice Cox to look into health insurance through Cover Oregon as the clock ticks down to the April 30th deadline.

According to staff at Insurance Lounge in Grants Pass, after the deadline, the next time people can enroll will be October 15th.

Where to go to get help

The Cover Oregon website is one tool that's available.

Erin Scow, the Enrollment Assistance Manager at Community Health Center in Medford said community partners can help people sign up for plans, but they might not have all the details regarding the specifics of each plan.

Scow said it may be a good idea to meet with an insurance broker to find out more about individual options.

"A lot of people don't understand what their options are unless they come on in," said Hopkins.


 

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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