Oregon's broken healthcare exchange to shift to federal network

PORTLAND, Oregon Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:07pm EDT

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PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Oregon, whose health insurance network has been dogged by technical glitches that have prevented even a single subscriber from enrolling online, will move its state health exchange to the federal system, officials said on Friday.

A state that fully embraced the Affordable Care Act, Oregon endured one of the rockiest rollouts of President Barack Obama's

healthcare law, requiring tens of thousands of applicants to use paper forms since launching on October 1.

Managers of the state exchange, Cover Oregon, determined it would cost about $78 million to fix the beleaguered exchange, well above the projected cost of switching over to the federal system.

On Friday, the Cover Oregon Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept a recommendation by a technology advisory group to shift the private insurance side of the program to the federal exchange. The Medicaid portion will move to the Oregon Health Plan.

"I don't know that anybody sitting in the room was excited about the proposal that's getting put forth, but at least my impression felt like it was the best option that we had in front of us for those constraints," Cover Oregon Board of Directors Chairwoman Liz Baxter said.

For Medicaid consumers, the transition should appear seamless, officials said. But it was unclear how the shift to the federal exchange for private insurance would play out.

"We know what we have. We need to speak with the folks in Washington and find out how we could do that," Cover Oregon spokesman Alex Pettit said.

The transition could mean some Cover Oregon employees lose their jobs, said Clyde Hamstreet, Cover Oregon interim executive director. Cover Oregon has 190 full time and 270 temporary employees.

Officials did not rule out the possibility of one day returning to a state based exchange.

Several Cover Oregon officials, including two past directors of the program, have resigned in recent months amid an independent investigation that found mismanagement of the system and a failure to report problems from the beginning.

Oregon is not alone. Officials in Maryland and Massachusetts also considered shifting their state-run exchanges to the federal network after experiencing technical problems.

Maryland ultimately kept its exchange intact using special technology developed by Connecticut to manage the system, at a cost of about $45 million, Pettit said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon)

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Comments (3)
kbill wrote:
There was a failure in leadership from the Governor down to the ground-level project managers. They defeated the expertise of one of the world’s best software vendors by making incessant changes once the goals and specs had already been agreed upon, and then blamed the vendor when the systems did not work. As an Oregonian, I wish I could say this was a fluke, but unfortunately not much works in Oregon when State government has a hand in it. So I am not surprised.

Apr 25, 2014 7:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kbill wrote:
In an added note:

The makeup of the Cover Oregon Board of Directors is painfully representative of the lack of expertise throughout the entire project. Not one of the board members possesses the experience necessary to manage-the-managers of a large, technical, health enrollment and financial service fulfillment system. The tri-county area has an abundance of for-profit Internet and healthcare technical expertise, yet not one Cover Oregon board member originates from this abundance of talent in software, hardware, healthcare, and healthcare management.

Apr 25, 2014 7:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
carnivalchaos wrote:
kbill: I’m not sure which is worse, an incompetent attempt or a refusal to even attempt to set up a state-run exchange, as is the case here in Mississippi. It’s kind of ironic that Gov. Bryant likes to rail against the evils of the Federal government but then leaves the construction and running of his state’s healthcare exchange to that same evil Federal government.

On one hand our government is supposed to represent the people and so when Tea Partiers insult the Federal government, they’re in effect insulting the American people, which they often do directly anyway. But the equation is further complicated by the fact that our government, on all levels, no longer functions as a democracy because only the very wealthy are truly represented. Sad.

Apr 25, 2014 9:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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