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​Consumers urged to look for o​ther options, tax credits through Cover Oregon

(Salem) — Oregon’s insurance commissioner announced Friday she is giving insurance companies the option to extend health plans in the individual and small group markets for up to another year, through Dec. 31, 2014.

The decision affects plans in place as of Oct. 1, 2013, that would otherwise be canceled because they do not meet minimum coverage requirements and financial protections under the Affordable Care Act.

“If an insurer chooses to offer extensions, it will need to notify the Oregon Insurance Division and contact customers directly about their options,” Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali said. Cali expects the division will provide insurers with more detailed guidance next week.

Cali made her decision in response to President Obama’s announcement Thursday that federal regulators would allow states to decide whether insurers can extend plans that were in effect on Oct. 1.

Cali said staying in the same plan may not be the best option for many Oregonians.

“The new plans offered in 2014 offer more benefits and financial protections, and many Oregonians will qualify for premium help through Cover Oregon,” she said. “I strongly urge consumers to shop around and find the plan that works best for them and their families.”

Federal subsidies to lower insurance costs are available only to people who buy new plans with essential benefits through Cover Oregon, the state’s health insurance marketplace. People should apply as soon as possible to take advantage of federal tax credits that start Jan. 1, 2014. Contact Cover Oregon at www.coveroregon.com.

About 5 percent of all Oregonians buy individual health plans because they are self-employed, unemployed, or their employer doesn’t offer coverage. About 145,000 of these Oregonians will need to shop for new coverage. Most are in plans currently scheduled to end Dec. 31, 2013. Another 193,000 Oregonians are covered by small employer plans that are currently scheduled to end on their renewal date, which may be as early as Dec. 31, 2013.

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The Insurance Division is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency​​

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