[Rushtalk] Oregon Taxpayers 'Stuck' With $303 million, Bill From Failed Obamacare Website

Carl Spitzer cwsiv at keepandbeararms.com
Mon May 19 20:37:41 MDT 2014

GOP: Oregon Taxpayers 'Stuck' With

 Bill From Failed Obamacare Website

By Todd Beamon


-- Republicans slammed the taxpayer waste from scrapping Oregon's $303
million, problem-plagued Obamacare health exchange on Friday, citing it
as yet another example of why the healthcare law should be repealed.

"Once again, Obamacare causes chaos and confusion for Oregonians," Rep.
Greg Walden, the state's only GOP member of Congress, said in a
statement. "Today, the same board that oversaw the colossal waste at
Cover Oregon voted to throw in the towel, and taxpayers are left stuck
with the bill.

"The board should explain further to the taxpayers of Oregon and the
nation how exactly this massive failure happened."

Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said:
"It's remarkable that Cover Oregon was such a disaster that moving into
the troubled HealthCare.gov is considered an improvement."

He also referenced  U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley's support of the Affordable
Care Act in 2010. The Oregon Democrat, who has since distanced himself
from the beleaguered law, is seeking re-election this fall.

"Oregonians can give themselves a real upgrade by firing Sen. Jeff
Merkley, whose deciding vote for Obamacare resulted in the creation of
Cover Oregon," Wilcox said.

The board overseeing the state's Obamacare program, Cover Oregon, on
Friday accepted an advisory committee's recommendation to ditch its
troubled portal after spending months and millions of dollars on trying
to get it to work. Oregon instead will use HealthCare.gov for private

According to Cover Oregon officials, fixing the troubled portal would
have cost $78 million and would have taken too long. Using
HealthCare.gov, which has had its own share of glitches and problems
since the Obamacare rollout, would cost just $4 million to $6 million.

"I don't know that anyone in the room is excited about going down this
path," Liz Baxter, who chairs the Cover Oregon board, said in a report
in The Oregonian. "But I think it's the only option."

In more than a dozen states that opted to create their own exchanges,
Oregon's was seen as the most dysfunctional. It was plagued by technical
problems so severe that almost all  the 50,000 people who signed up for
insurance through the exchange did so using paper applications or with
help from a professional.

Right up to the end, Oregonians were not able to use the website to sign
up for coverage in one sitting.

Oregon residents instead had to use an arduous paper-online process to
sign up for insurance — despite the $134 million the state paid Oracle
Corp. to build the online exchange. Oregon received a monthlong
enrollment-deadline extension because of the technology problems.

The state enthusiastically embraced Obamacare, and the website had been
a pioneer for state marketplaces.

And even though several other states have had major problems with their
Obamacare exchanges, only Oregon has voted to scrap it entirely.
Maryland recently decided to adopt the technology used on Connecticut's
successful exchange.

In March, the Government Accountability Office in Washington said that
it would investigate the Oregon exchange, including looking at whether
the federal government can reclaim grant money given to Cover Oregon if
taxpayer funds were mismanaged.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said they
were working with Oregon on the next steps in the effort.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation ordered by Gov. John Kitzhaber
found state managers repeatedly disregarded reports about technical
problems that prevented the Cover Oregon exchange from launching when
the Obamacare individual mandate took effect in October.

It also found that Oracle did a poor job in building the exchange's
technology. Five Oregon officials connected to website's development
have resigned.

Kitzhaber said communications about the portal's troubles never reached
him as the Oct. 1 launch neared. The governor said he agreed with the
technology advisory committee's recommendation to scrap the website.

State officials said they would keep the Cover Oregon website,
redesigning it to direct people to HealthCare.gov. Oregon also will use
the federal call center, but it will retain some customer outreach,
education efforts and initial carrier management.

Because HealthCare.gov enrolls people only in private health plans,
Oregonians who are declared eligible for the Medicaid program for
low-income Americans will be redirected to the Oregon Health Authority.

That agency can enroll them in the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon's version
of Medicaid.

So far, about 242,000 Oregonians have enrolled in coverage through Cover
Oregon. About 70,000 are in private plans, while 172,000 are enrolled in
the Oregon Health Plan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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