Itemizer-Observer staff report

SALEM – Gov. Kate Brown called on federal Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to open a special enrollment period for Oregonians to buy health insurance and apply for federal subsidies through HealthCare.gov.  The open enrollment deadline passed on Dec. 15 and does not open again until November, said a press release from the  Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services.  “Many Oregonians are uninsured or underinsured and now find their families’ budgets significantly tightened due to this national emergency,” Brown said in a letter to Azar. “In order to remove any potential barriers that remain, it is critical for all Oregonians to have access to a special enrollment period.”  A widespread special enrollment period would allow anyone legally present in the United States to buy a private plan and apply for a subsidy to help afford it. The governor requested that the enrollment period open as soon as possible and last at least 30 days.  Oregon needs Azar to allow the special enrollment period via HealthCare.gov because the application consumers need for federal subsidies, and Oregon’s online system for selection of plans available through HealthCare.gov, is run by the federal government.   “The Marketplace is our state’s pathway to coverage and federal subsidies,” said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “Until the federal government unblocks the gate to those options for all Oregonians, the only people who can enroll now are those who just lost other coverage or had another major qualifying event.”  The governor's letter to Azar emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of income-strapped families during a national crisis.   “Your administration has stressed the value of allowing Americans to make their own coverage choices. During open enrollment last fall, a moderate-income adult might have made a rational decision to skip coverage or buy one of the extremely limited, short-term plans now available under federal rules that currently are not required to cover testing for the novel coronavirus and waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment,” Brown wrote. “A national emergency has changed conditions vastly, and those Oregonians deserve a chance to get the coverage they need.”    

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