As the March 31 deadline nears for Oregonians seeking health coverage, Cover Oregon health insurance exchange officials remain hopeful for some sort of grace period beyond that date.
Cover Oregon's acting director, Bruce Goldberg, told the exchange board Thursday that discussions with the federal government are ongoing to get permission for Oregon to have a "special enrollment period."
Thursday's discussion is significant because earlier this week federal officials appeared to rule out an extension of the open-enrollment deadline -- a request made by Oregon -- in a conference call with reporters.
The "special enrollment period" would be something different but still could allow more time for consumers as well as Cover Oregon as it attempts to boost enrollment. For instance, people who apply for eligibility by March 31 might have a deadline falling in April to complete their plan selection, officials said.
Technological problems have many Oregonians applying using a backup system that takes days to process applications and let people choose plans.
Goldberg urged people to apply by March 31 just in case. The exchange should know in the next week or so whether the federal government will allow Oregon a special grace period.
Most people who lack health coverage by March 31 face a possible federal penalty that starts at $95 and runs as high as 1 percent of household income.
©2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)