Oregon Governor Kate Brown this week reminded uninsured residents and those who purchase insurance through Healthcare.gov that open enrollment for insurance begins Wednesday, Nov. 1, and remains open until 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 15.
“Every county has at least three plans to choose from, and some have as many as 31,” Brown said at a press conference Monday. “The marketplace is ready for you. Community groups across the state are ready to help, with application assistance by people well-versed in eligibility standards and benefits. They can make sure you get the right answers and help through the process.”
Residents can attend clinics through Multnomah County health centers and libraries, as well as other enrollment clinics, or through licensed insurance agents for help understanding the various plans. All these options are free.
Since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014, most Oregonians have enrolled in health insurance, either on the federal exchange or through expanded access to the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid). For those who must pay a monthly premium, most received financial assistance, bringing the average monthly premium down to $147, Brown said. In Multnomah County, residents who purchase insurance on the exchange receive an average subsidy of $259.
Doctors and social service advocates have raised concerns that clients might not sign up for insurance because of confusion over whether the Affordable Care Act remains in place, and also because the Trump administration cut the open enrollment period in half, and cut by 90 percent its budget intended to educate the public about enrollment. Most of that federal outreach budget goes to purchase TV advertisements.
Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services, which oversees the state’s health insurance exchange, has increased its budget for outreach to include $443,000 in television promotion, according to Jake Sunderland, a press officer with the department.
Multnomah County Commissioner and emergency department doctor Sharon Meieran urged residents to sign up early.
“The shorter open enrollment time this year makes it even more important to act quickly so you have full information from trained staff who can help you identify your options,” she said.
Meieran said the expansion of healthcare changed the way she serves patients. Preventable emergency department visits dropped by half following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, while a greater number of patients came with advanced health problems such as cancer, heart conditions and infections.
“They came to the ER because they finally had insurance and weren’t worried that being sick would bankrupt them or cause more hardship to their families,” she said. “And I, as a physician, finally had a way to coordinate their care, primary care providers and specialists where I could send them. Because they had insurance.”