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State gives people another month to sign up for insurance

Oregonians will have an extra month to sign up for private health insurance, Gov. John Kitzhaber said Wednesday.

The decision comes a week after Kitzhaber released an independent report that outlined a slipshod state process that led to the failure of the Cover Oregon insurance website.

Oregonians have until April 30 to apply for private health insurance. Kitzhaber said he worked the extension out with federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. People who apply by April 30 will not be subject to a possible federal penalty.

“I know that for too many Oregonians, the Cover Oregon website and its ongoing technical problems have created delays, confusion and frustration,” Kitzhaber said.

Oregon’s extended application period is targeted to people purchasing private health insurance coverage either through Cover Oregon or directly from an insurance carrier. People who purchase through Cover Oregon can get tax credits and other financial assistance. Oregonians who are eligible for the Oregon Health Plan or Healthy Kids can apply for coverage year round.

“Cover Oregon has successfully completed more than 175,000 enrollments for Oregonians across our state,” Kitzhaber said. “I want to make sure that people know they can still apply. They have time to do so, for themselves and their families, and they should take advantage right away.”

Oregonians can find an agent or community partner in their area who can help them enroll by visiting www.CoverOregon.com. They can also go to www.CoverOregon.com to find resources to apply, including an online PDF application they can submit electronically.

Help for small businesses

Kitzhaber also said Wednesday that an agreement between Cover Oregon and participating insurance companies would help small businesses access federal tax credits. Qualified small businesses that purchase a Cover Oregon-certified plan after April 1 from insurance companies will be able to access tax credits for 2014.

“This is an important step forward to support small businesses and get health insurance coverage for more people,” Kitzhaber said.

Eligible businesses must have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees; purchase a “qualified health plan” certified by Cover Oregon; and contribute at least 50 percent of the premium cost for employee coverage.

For more information, go to www.CoverOregon.com or call 1-855-CoverOR (268-3767). The Cover Oregon service center is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.