People still struggling to sign up for health insurance

Like most people trained to assist Oregonians enroll for health care insurance, Aracely Mesta expected to her calendar to be jammed this month.

But one delay in Cover Oregon's online portal followed by others has turned the anticipated digital frenzy into a frustrating paper trail.

"I'm seeing eight people a day and it takes 30 minutes to an hour to fill out their forms," said Mesta, an outreach worker at LaClinica's West Medford Health Center.

"As time goes by, it gets faster because I'm the one inserting information," Mesta said. "I know what the form looks like, so it depends on how many people are in the household and if they bring in all of their information. Some forget their ID, Social (Security) and income information, so that slows the process."

A month into the greatest transition of health care services in the nation's history not much has really happened. Hundreds of paper applications have been forwarded to the state, but Cover Oregon reported no exchange enrollments heading into this week.

By the middle of November, the 45-day waiting period accompanying paper applications will expire, but for now it's the only way enrollments can fly.

"It's obviously a challenge," said Dennis Flenner with Protectors Insurance. "Patience will be a virtue. People are anxiously waiting for the system to begin working. You don't have to be a psychic to know there would be a log jam."

Flenner is among the dozens of agents listed on the Cover Oregon website, trained to begin working with people signing up for the Cover Oregon exchange this month.

Flenner said the No. 1 question from clients remains "How long will this take?"

"In the scheme of things, will it take days, weeks or what before we get something cooking? A lot of people are asking why; it's confusing," he said.

While people are excited economic factors and existing health conditions are no longer barriers to health insurance, Scott Bybee, owner of Innovative Investment Services in Medford, said the real worry comes if people can't enroll in the exchanges once Dec. 1 rolls around. At present, consumers have until Dec. 15 to acquire insurance via Cover Oregon in order for it to kick in Jan. 1.

— Greg Stiles

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