230,000 visit Cover Oregon, but glitch remains

SALEM, Ore. (AP) Cover Oregon, the state's health insurance exchange, has received more than 230,000 unique website visitors and 7,300 phone calls after nearly a week of existence, but the website is still not able to finish enrolling applicants in coverage.

Cover Oregon officials hope to have the website fully functional by the end of the month, Michael Cox, a spokesman for the exchange, said Monday.

Interest in the website has been very high, considering Oregon has an estimated 600,000 people who lack health insurance, Cox said.

"We really think people out there are hungry to get covered and hungry for more information, and it's our goal over the coming weeks and months to make sure that all those people get signed up," he said.

Cover Oregon is an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for insurance, compare options and find out whether they qualify for subsidies under the federal health care overhaul.

The system has had trouble accurately determining whether people are eligible for subsidies, so officials are waiting until the issues are resolved before they allow people to enroll. They plan to open the site initially to licensed insurance agents and community organizations that have a contract with the state, and ultimately to the general public.

About 1,300 people have submitted paper applications. The average wait time for people calling the exchange was 33 seconds.

Pacific Benefit Consultants in Eugene has been busy handling "lots and lots and lots of questions" from people who eager to sign up for health coverage, said Shelli Anderson, vice president of employee benefits. The company has been hearing from both existing clients and the general public, she said.

Agents can help people navigate the website and can tell them more information about the plans than what's currently available online, Anderson said, but they can't say for sure what a plan will cost.

"They just want to do it now," Anderson said. "They just want answers."

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