Cover Oregon CIO Says Still Uncertain When Individuals Can Enroll Online

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Aaron Karjala, Cover Oregon’s chief information officer, sounded cautiously optimistic as he told legislators about steady progress toward getting Cover Oregon’s website up and running during a Friday hearing of the Legislature’s joint committee on audits, information management and technology.

Cover Oregon has been giving weekly reports to the legislative committee, and will do so until the Legislature adjourns.

On Feb. 18, Cover Oregon released a portion of the website allowing insurance agents and community partners to enroll individuals into health coverage.

Approximately 1,200 of the 2,200 insurance agents and community partners Cover Oregon works with have been trained on how to use the site, and over 700 people enrolled in health coverage in less than a week.

Karjala described the launch as “a critical milestone.”

“It was the last large push before we launch to the general public,” Karjala said.

But when asked by Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, when Cover Oregon anticipates to launch the portion of its website allowing individuals to enroll, Karjala hedged.

There is no firm date, he told legislators. An “in-depth review” of the website’s code will be conducted in mid-March, and Cover Oregon will determine whether “it makes sense to launch at this point in open enrollment.”

Karjala said there are other aspects of Cover Oregon’s enrollment process that have changed or improved. Through the website’s back end, customer service staff can determine an individual’s eligibility for health plans and tax credits, and complete the enrollment process. Before, they were only able to make an eligibility determination; selecting a plan and finishing the enrollment process had to be done via paper.

Cover Oregon has also started processing tribal applications, because the technological ability to determine Native American’s eligibility status has been fixed.

And instead of filling out a paper application, consumers can now fill out and submit an application online, something Dr. Bruce Goldberg, Cover Oregon’s acting executive director, had described as a priority.

“We are continuing to make improvements on a very regular basis. We’re doing a regular cadence of releases,” Karjala told legislators. “We’re always eliminating work arounds, improving system performance, and preparing for a full individual [enrollment] launch.”

But there are still nine major deficiencies preventing Cover Oregon from launching the individual enrollment portion of the website, including pieces of the website that would automatically calculate tax credits and subsidies, allow individuals to create an account, shop for plans.