Emily Adair
The La Grande Observer

Open enrollment for health insurance through HealthCare.gov is back this year, but it lasts from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, so people may not have much time to shop around for the right plan. A local nonprofit, Northeast Oregon Network, aims to help with the process.

Open enrollment is a six-week period designated for choosing a health insurance plan if you do not already have coverage through a job or another program.

“The open enrollment period is shorter than it has been in the past, so people will have less time to shop for what works,” said Holly Sorensen, outreach and enrollment specialist at NEON. “Some people tend to wait until after Christmas to worry about next year’s expenses. That won’t work this year,” she noted.

Sorensen said those interested in signing up through HealthCare.gov should contact NEON or a local insurance agent as soon as possible to find a plan that works for them.

Sorensen said there will still be plans available on HealthCare.gov despite recent political efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“Especially after months of political debates over health care, anyone could be confused about what’s available and how to get covered,” Sorensen said in a news
release. “But 2018 plans — and help paying for them — are available again at HealthCare.gov, and we can help people complete the application, understand their plan options and get covered.”

President Trump signed an executive order on Oct. 12 to end subsidies to health insurance companies that help lower-income clients with out-of-pocket costs. Some insurance providers said they may pull out of exchanges like HealthCare.gov because they’d no longer receive the subsidies, but the effects likely won’t be seen until 2019.

“There’s not going to be a major impact for consumers this year,” Sorensen said. “It’ll take some time for providers to adjust their rates.”

It could also take time for policymakers to draft and implement specific regulations to meet Trump’s directive.

“Most people shouldn’t have any concern over whether they still qualify or about
affordability,” Sorensen said.

According to the news release, an Oregon resident whose income is less than $48,000 or a family of four making less than $98,000 may be eligible through HealthCare.gov. She said many Northeast Oregonians qualify, as evidenced by the increase in people who have recently become insured.

See complete story in Monday's Observer