by NW Spotlight
It ran in Seattle with the headline “Oregon Health Care Exchange Has Yet To Enroll A Single Person” and in Miami with the headline “Cover Oregon clings to grand vision despite delays.”
The AP article describes how after spending more than $300 million on developing its Obamacare health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, Oregon has yet to enroll a single person through its exchange.
This failure more than a month after the date Cover Oregon was supposed to launch validates the warnings of Cover Oregon’s own risk consultant and has resulted in the state needing to hire at least 400 people to process paper applications. The AP article notes that “reality is lagging far behind Gov. John Kitzhaber’s grand ideas.” So far, Cover Oregon’s failure is definitely falling short of Kitzhaber’s goal for it to be “a model that other states would want to copy.”
The failure also validates the warnings of former state Rep. Patrick Sheehan. In an interview with the Estacada News last December he was critical because the health insurance exchange was spending nearly $50 million trying to build a complex new system instead of licensing software designed for that purpose – for a fraction of the cost.
When reports started coming out around the October 1, 2013 launch day about Cover Oregon “glitches,” Sheehan commented “I’ve been saying this for more than a year – the tech implementation of Cover Oregon was one of the most wildly mismanaged and AVOIDABLE debacles our state government has undertaken. One of my last communications with the Governor was a request he fire Carolyn Lawson (in charge of the tech side) for lying to our Legislative Committee about progress and options available for a faster, cheaper solution. Instead, he did nothing.”
The AP article doesn’t mention the millions of dollars spent to advertise Cover Oregon. An article in Willamette Week last month reported that the state has doubled its taxpayer-funded spending on a Cover Oregon advertising contract from almost $10 million to more than $21 million because “the ad campaign has not yet had the impact [state officials had] hoped for and [they] want to broaden its reach.”
It’s unclear why the state wants to expand advertising for an exchange that’s not working or why they would choose to spend that money on advertising rather than on fixing the Cover Oregon technical problems.