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Questions and answers on Oregon insurance exchange

Jan 29, 2013


By JONATHAN J. COOPER
Of the Associated Press

PORTLAND — While other states have fought President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul, known as the Affordable Care Act, Oregon has embraced it and is working hard to implement it.

The law requires every state to have a new health insurance marketplace called an exchange. Oregon's Legislature created an exchange in 2011 and approved its business model the following year.

The exchange, which is known here as Cover Oregon, will be an online shopping center for small business and for people who don't get health coverage from their employer. Users will be able to compare the costs and benefits of various insurance plans, and they'll be able to find out whether they qualify for federal subsidies to help pay their premiums.

Here are answers to some common questions about the Oregon health insurance exchange:

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Q: How many people are uninsured in Oregon and how many of them are projected to get insurance under the exchange?

A: In 2010, 636,000 people were uninsured, according to the Oregon Insurance Division. State officials expect 237,100 people to get insurance through the exchange in 2014.

Q: How many people in Oregon are currently served by Medicaid, and how many more will be served after the Medicaid expansion on Jan. 1, 2014?

A: Just over 555,0000 people were enrolled in the traditional Medicaid program, known as Oregon Health Plan Plus, on Dec. 15, 2012. State officials estimate that the Medicaid expansion would add another 200,000 people.

Q: How is the exchange going to be set up in Oregon?

A: The Oregon Legislature has opted to create its own exchange, rather than leaving it up to the federal government or partnering with the Obama administration. It's a quasi-public corporation, similar to the agency that oversees workers compensation in Oregon, and is governed by a nine-member board. A separate advisory committee provides additional guidance for the board.

Q: How far along is Oregon in setting up an exchange? Will it be ready to start enrolling people by the October deadline?

A: Exchange officials say they are on track to be ready by October.

Q: How much money has Oregon received so far from the federal government to do the initial work in setting up an exchange?

A: Oregon has received more than $290 million from five grants.

Q: How will Oregonians access the exchange and what kind of customer support will be offered?

A: Cover Oregon will be accessible online at www.coveroregon.com and through a toll-free telephone number. Customer support will be offered through a call center, and insurance shoppers also will also be able to use "navigators" to help guide them through the process.

Q: How many people will Cover Oregon employ?

A: The exchange currently has 54 employees, a number that's expected to grow before the exchange launches next year, said Lisa Morawski, a spokeswoman. Additionally, dozens of temporary and permanent employees will staff the call center, but exact numbers are still being worked out, Morawski said.

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