Oregon’s Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali should take immediate action to allow insurance companies to extend existing health insurance plans into 2014. Cover Oregon is presently unable to enroll individuals through its website. Although Cover Oregon is accepting paper applications, many Oregonians are having difficulty understanding their options and enrolling. Oregonians should not be denied access to plans they already hold when there are impediments to obtaining new plans. The president agrees, and has granted states additional latitude.

If Oregon implements this administrative change, insurance companies will need to inform consumers they may be giving up protections required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Insurers would also be required to inform policyholders alternative plans are available and tax credits may be available through the health care exchange.

Although is not currently working for enrollment, those who wish to enroll now can submit paper applications and get help by calling Cover Oregon’s hotline at 1-855-268-3767. Constituents of the 1st Congressional District can also call my office at 503-469-6010 for assistance.

I strongly encourage Oregon to implement this change, but I also recognize we must continue to work to ensure that all Oregonians are covered by plans that include the basic consumer protections set out in the ACA as soon as possible. The ACA prevents insurers from discriminating based on gender or pre-existing condition, prohibits lifetime limits on coverage, forbids denying payment for essential coverage and bans companies from dropping coverage when someone gets sick and needs it most. These important changes are some of the most popular provisions of the ACA, but they cannot be fully realized if new plans that meet these higher standards are difficult to access.

Although I am extremely frustrated about the failures of and, we must keep the focus on our ultimate goal: affordable, high-quality insurance that is available to every Oregonian and every American. Eventually, these websites will work, and millions of Americans will benefit. For the time being, it’s important that we offer reasonable flexibility whenever possible.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici represents Oregon’s 1st Congressional District.

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