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Help offered in last-minute health care signup scramble


Friday is the deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and Oregonians are scrambling to sign up in time.

This year’s enrollment period was cut in half, from three months to six weeks.

Also, advertising to remind people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act was cut by 90 percent.

For these reasons, as well as confusion over the state of health care in our country, lots of people are trying to navigate the process at the last second.

To fill the gap, agencies and individuals have stepped in to help.

Volunteers in Medicine is one of those agencies. The clinic that serves low-income community members has been offering advice to people struggling with the sign-up, according to Beth Larsen, who is responsible for the clinics eligibility, grants and community partnerships.

“This year, I think there’s been more confusion, No. 1 because the enrollment period has been cut in half, and No. 2 because of all the chaos in Washington, people just don’t know what to believe and what not to believe. And that’s just been terribly unfortunate,” Larsen said Thursday.

“The confusion has mostly just been overwhelming. ‘What do I do? Do I do it now? Do I not do it? What happens if I don’t do it? Is it the Oregon Health Plan or the Affordable Care Act? When are the deadlines? The real deadlines?’ All that, it’s been a lot, and it’s been hard on people,” Larsen said.

Volunteers in Medicine often refers people who need help to Henrik Jahn at Central Financial Services. Jahn said the last few weeks have been especially busy.

“Politically, they don’t know what’s going on next year, whether the subsidy is going to be there or not,” Jan said. But we can only work with what we know, so we just advise people to pick a plan, go with it for the year and if things change, we’ll go with it.”

As of Wednesday, 4.7 million Americans had signed up for the Affordable Care Act. That includes just over 86,000 Oregonians.

There are certain exceptions for people who don’t sign up in time. For example, if your plan is no longer being offered, or if you live in a hurricane-affected area.

But if you don’t qualify for the special enrollment period, you could be fined 2 percent of your adjusted gross income or $695, whichever is more.

To sign up before 11:59 p.m. Friday, visit the website:

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