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POLK COUNTY — Health care open enrollment is beginning next month and Polk County Family & Community Outreach and its partners want people to be ready to apply.

The agency, in partnership with Northwest Human Services and local insurance agents, will host free insurance informational sessions Saturday in Dallas and West Salem.

This year, instead of using the Cover Oregon website — which never worked — the state is transitioning to the federal marketplace, www.healthcare.gov or enrollment in the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) through the Oregon Health Authority.

There will be two different applications, depending what an individual or family qualifies for. Each applicant will go through a screening to determine if they qualify for OHP or for a private plan.

Saturday’s sessions will help answer questions about open enrollment, which begins Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15.

“Our goal is also to do a prescreening with them, so that when open enrollment gets here … they will know which application they need to fill out (and) what kind of information they need to have ready for us to help them,” said Stephanie Gilbert, the former county outreach and enrollment specialist who is helping coordinate open enrollment events in the county.

Gilbert is working alongside Amber Hoffman, the current outreach and enrollment specialist.

Last year, despite the problems with the Cover Oregon website, the county helped 1,357 people apply for coverage.

“We’ve been very successful this year, which has been really exciting, especially seeing people that have never had insurance before,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert noted for those people who applied for private plan coverage through Cover Oregon, those plans will end Dec. 31, so they need to reapply by Dec. 15 to prevent a gap in coverage.

And for those who might be understandably wary of the words “Cover Oregon,” Hoffman said the new process promises to have fewer glitches.

“Since we are not going through Cover Oregon — we are going through healthcare.gov — that’s a system that a lot of other states have used throughout this whole year,” she said.

Gilbert noted while Cover Oregon will be coordinating outreach efforts, Oregon Health Authority will process OHP applications. Hoffman won’t just be providing application assistance; if people are having trouble after their application is submitted or using coverage, she is available to help.

Gilbert noted making an appointment doesn’t necessarily mean people have to sign up that day.

“Our time is just as well spent answering the questions that they have and easing their minds,” she said.

Learn More

What: Free health insurance informational sessions.

Where and When: Dallas — Saturday, 9 to 11 a.m., Academy Building, 182 SW Academy St.; West Salem — Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m., Northwest Human Services West Salem Clinic, 1233 Edgewater St. NW.

For more information: Amber Hoffmann at 503-623-1883 or email hoffmann.amber@co.polk.or.us.



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