- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - Health insurance agents say some Oregonians who applied via Cover Oregon in time to secure January coverage are still without insurance.

The Corvallis Gazette Times reports (http://bit.ly/1cqKTar ) people are stuck in insurance limbo because their applications were either lost in the system or held up because of unspecified technical issues.

As a result, those people are still awaiting confirmation that they have an approved insurance plan. Some also lost their federal subsidies for the month, because they had to extend their previous coverage into January.

The delays have meant insurance agents spending hours on the phone trying to clear up the problems.

“We’re on the phone probably four days a week for at least an hour to Cover Oregon trying to get people covered,” said Mark Webber, an independent insurance agent in Corvallis.

Webber said he helped 40 customers to complete Cover Oregon application forms for private insurance ahead of the December deadline. But in mid-January, 25 of those people were still waiting for confirmation that they had an approved insurance plan. That number has since gone down, but on Friday Webber still had six clients in coverage limbo.

One such case was cleared up after 15 phone calls, Webber said, when a Cover Oregon representative finally determined that an application flagged for a technical problem actually had no problems at all.

That client lost out on hundreds of dollars in tax credits that would have been available through Cover Oregon, Webber said, because he had to extend his previous insurance coverage in order not to have an insurance gap.

Heidi Carter, an account manager with AKT Benefit Advisors in Salem, estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the applications she filed by the December deadline were still awaiting approval last week.

“I tell people they’ve gone into the Cover Oregon vortex,” she said. “When somebody has a problem, it just goes into this place where nobody can seem to fix it.”

Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox declined to say how many applications eligible for Jan. 1 coverage have been delayed. “We acknowledge that for many people it’s been a challenging process,” Cox said.

The state has enrolled 83,000 people in coverage thus far, including about 30,000 in private insurance and the rest in the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid.

Nearly four months after it was supposed to launch, Cover Oregon’s website still can’t enroll anyone end to end. The exchange has been using a backup paper and online process. The state has hired or reassigned more than 400 people to process applications manually.

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Information from: Gazette-Times, http://www.gtconnect.com