The nonprofit Northeast Oregon Network, La Grande, received approval from the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace for a $75,000 in grant funding to help locals with open enrollment.

UNION COUNTY — The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace approved funding for three local organizations to help with enrolling residents of Union and Wallowa counties in health care plans.

Valley Insurance and Northeast Oregon Network, La Grande, and Hillock Insurance Agency, Enterprise, will receive grant money to help cover the costs of enrolling residents in health insurance plans during open enrollment, Nov. 1-Dec. 15. The grants will provide reimbursement for expenses, such as payroll for employees working extra hours and printing costs for flyers about open enrollment, according to Matthew Pidcock, co-owner of Valley Insurance.

“During open enrollment we have a small window to enroll people,” Pidcock said. “This grant is one of the things that keeps us in the individual insurance market. We are one of the few companies in the area left, and a large part of that is due to having this grant. It helps us still provide service to the community while offsetting the added cost that comes during the time of open enrollment.”

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace approved Valley Insurance for up to $12,500 in grant funding and approved Northeast Oregon Network for up to $75,000. Hillock Insurance Agency did not respond to requests for comment.

Northeast Oregon Network is a nonprofit that helps residents of Union, Wallowa, Baker, Umatilla and Malheur counties with enrolling in qualifying health plans. Holley Sorensen, outreach coordinator for NEON, said having the grant gives the organization the opportunity to offer its services to more people.

“Providing this grant ensures there are multiple resources,” Sorensen said. “The number of insurance agents have become fewer and fewer, so by bringing in community-based organizations like ours, and providing them funding, we can work together on reaching more people in the area.”

NEON’s funding will go toward staffing costs for the year, in addition to purchasing advertisements and generating and distributing materials about open enrollment options. The organization receives additional funding to help offset the cost of enrolling qualified individuals in the Oregon Health Plan.

The state gave $786,500 in grants to eight community groups and 28 insurance agencies across Oregon. Organizations have until June 2021 to submit receipts to the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace for reimbursement.

“This year has really highlighted the importance of having health coverage,” Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, said in a press release. “Many Oregonians don’t have to deal frequently with health insurance, so sifting through plan and financial assistance options alone can be stressful, especially under a deadline. Insurance agents and community partners throughout the state are there to help people understand the options.”

and enroll in coverage.”

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