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Retired couple waiting for more affordable health coverage
Jim and Ann Hunt
Jim and Ann Hunt are counting the days until Cover Oregon opens.

March 14, 2013, (Aloha, Ore.) — Jim Hunt, 57, had worked as a microprocessor design engineer for 30 years. About two years ago, with careful planning, he decided to take an early retirement. His employer would pay for continued health insurance for him and his wife, Ann, for 18 months under the federal COBRA law. After the COBRA period ran out, he planned to purchase private insurance until he was eligible for Medicare at age 65.

A few months before the COBRA coverage ended, he started shopping around for private health insurance. He got a big surprise.

"As soon as they open for enrollment I'm going to be on the phone to them and will pick out a plan we can afford."  ~ Jim Hunt

"We were uninsurable. It was quite a shock. I would have never thought either one of us would ever be uninsurable," Hunt, of Aloha, said.

During those 18 months, Ann had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in her knees. When they sought private insurance, it was deemed a pre-existing condition. In 2012, nearly 17,000 Oregonians were denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

The only insurance he can now get is by buying back into his employer's plan. But that is extremely expensive, again because of his wife's pre-existing condition. It is costing them more than $21,000 per year, a cost they can't afford for very long and one they did not factor into their retirement planning.

"Other than to go without health care insurance, it was really our only option. This is definitely an unplanned expense," he said.

That's why he has already started to count the days until Cover Oregon opens and when, in 2014, no one can be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Cover Oregon is a central marketplace where Oregonians and employers will be able to shop for health insurance plans beginning in October 2013. Many individuals and families will be eligible for financial assistance through Cover Oregon to help pay for premiums.

"As soon as they open for enrollment I'm going to be on the phone to them and will pick out a plan we can afford," he said.

To find out if you would qualify for financial assistance through Cover Oregon or to learn more: www.CoverOregon.com.