Cover Oregon, the new health insurance marketplace, kicked off today and Clatsop County residents will have a local agent to help them navigate the new program.

Cover Oregon is the state’s new online marketplace where Oregonians can shop for health insurance, choose from different health insurance companies to find plans that will fit their needs, and budget and access savings to help pay for coverage.

The health care exchange is part of the Affordable Care Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2010. Shoppers for insurance will have until Dec. 15 to enroll for coverage that will begin Jan. 1. The health care reform includes provisions making it illegal for providers to deny coverage or charge more money for pre-existing health conditions. Young adults will also be able to remain on their parent's insurance plans until age 26.

According to Cover Oregon, more than 600,000 Oregonians are uninsured and will have new opportunities to purchase health coverage. Cover Oregon is designed to provide an easily accessible venue for Oregonians to compare various health insurance options side-by-side, whether they currently have no coverage or are simply interested in checking out alternatives. The program also provides information about financial assistance offered to help people afford coverage.

To help Oregon individuals and families enroll in health insurance through Cover Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority awarded grants to local governments and community organizations. The Clatsop County Public Health Department received a $76,436 grant to fund the outreach program and is certified to help county residents enroll in coverage.

Judi Mahoney, an outreach coordinator with the county Public Health Department, is a certified enrollment assistance agent and can help county residents find health insurance through Cover Oregon. She will be available to work with individuals, families and owners of businesses with fewer than 50 employees. All enrollment assistance is provided at no cost. Spanish-language assistance is also available. In the past, Mahoney has worked as the county’s outreach specialist for the Oregon Healthy Kids program.

Coastal Family Health Center in Astoria is also a certified Cover Oregon assistance provider. Online enrollment will be available in the near future, but initially all sign-ups will need to go through Mahoney or Coastal Family Health Center.

• More information is available at www.coveroregon.com or by calling toll-free 1-855-CoverOR.

• Mahoney can be reached by phone at 503-358-2333 or email at judimahoney@yahoo.com. People can also call a special appointment line at the county Public Health office at 503-338-3684.

• For Coastal Family Health Care, call 503-741-8035 to find out more.

Clatsop County Public Health Department received a $76,436 grant to fund the outreach program.

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