The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Monday gave Oregon conditional approval for its plan to operate a health insurance exchange. The plan, called Cover Oregon, is designed to provide health care to thousands of Oregonians who are currently uninsured. Oregon was among the first handful of states to receive conditional approval. “Cover Oregon is a key piece of Oregon’s efforts to transform our health care system,” said Governor John Kitzhaber. “With transparency about quality and prices and the ability to make apples-to-apples comparisons, Oregonians will be empowered to make decisions about their health coverage.”
Cover Oregon functions as an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for and compare health coverage options and access financial assistance, starting in October 2013. Coverage for plans purchased through Cover Oregon will be effective January 1, 2014. In information sheet provided by Kitzhaber’s office said “individuals and families will be able to easily compare plans, see quality grades for carriers and plans, and access financial assistance to help pay for premiums. Kitzhaber said some small businesses will qualify for tax credits to help pay for employee health care coverage. There is an online calculator to help people find out if they may qualify for financial help.
According to CMS, conditional approval indicates that Oregon has not yet completed all blueprint exchange activity requirements but will be operationally ready for the initial open enrollment period in October 2013. “We are pleased to have completed this important step in developing a state-based exchange,” said Liz Baxter, chair of the Cover Oregon Board of Directors. “As we prepare for our launch next fall, we will continue to engage the public to ensure Cover Oregon meets the unique needs of Oregonians.” The general web page will send updates and information, including the location of upcoming public meetings to people who sign in and ask for it.