EDITORIAL: Oregonís inadequate blanket

Written by Observer staff reports December 16, 2013 11:24 am


Anger is not good for health. Apoplexy is even worse. And there’s a lot of that going around the state these days.

Cover Oregon had good intentions. And the health insurance exchange may end up being the best thing in the state since the bill that made beaches public. But for the moment it is covering Oregon like a holey, moth-eaten blanket.

Initially last week, thousands of Oregonians, who sent in applications by the Dec. 4 deadline, were told they wouldn’t have health insurance on Jan. 1, as they were promised. These unlucky souls, already stressed by the vagaries of the system and the complexities of signing up, would have to go elsewhere for temporary coverage. Blame technical issues with the exchange’s faulty online portal, which has yet to sign up a single person. Not one. 

But, later in the week, with its online enrollment system still not fully working, Cover Oregon announced that insurance companies have agreed to delay the deadline for people to select their plan, a final piece of the multi-step enrollment process. Plan selections must now be made by 5 p.m. on Dec. 27. The previous deadline was Sunday. 

As of Tuesday, less than half of people who had completed paper applications by the Dec. 4 deadline have had them processed. Of the 37,000 applications remaining to be processed, half of these people will be eligible for Medicaid and will be automatically enrolled, said Dr. Bruce Goldberg, acting head of Cover Oregon. The other half, about 19,000 people, will fall through the doughnut hole and may be without coverage for a month.

Maybe longer.

As many people know, through bitter experience, a day without health insurance is a day too much. Think about it. Anything can happen. Cancer. Stroke. Heart attack. Bronchitis. Pneumonia. Torn meniscus.

Health care doesn’t come cheap. It’s said that two out of every 1,000 people each year will rack up an illness that costs at least $100,000 to treat.

Cover Oregon, to its credit, has added night shifts and a call center to try to deal with processing the mountain of applications. And it says it is working hard to rectify the technical problems with its faulty online portal, but that will not be a quick fix.

It’s unfortunate that Cover Oregon was rolled out before all these bugs were worked out of the system. The system should be user friendly. It should not be something that causes people to tear out their hair and incur additional stress-related health problems.