Kitzhaber throws another underling under the Cover Oregon bus

John Kitzhaber_thb

by NW Spotlight

1. The latest Cover Oregon casualty, the Portland Business Journal reports, is “Dr. Bruce Goldberg, Cover Oregon’s interim executive director,” who “has resigned from his job as director of the Oregon Health Authority.” That’s not who should have been the third Cover Oregon casualty…

2. Gov. Kitzhaber is pretending that this is the first review of Cover Oregon. It’s not. He and his subordinates just ignored the first one from quality-assurance contractor Maximus – with red flags going back to 2011. (KATU’s Hillary Lake did get Gov. Kitzhaber to admit in today’s press conference that his office had received the reports from Maximus)

3. Gov. Kitzhaber picked the people to do this most recent review, First Data, at a cost of $228,000 to taxpayers. Their review can hardly be considered objective or “independent”, and further their assessment was limited to the 7 questions provided by the Governor’s Office. KATU outlines some of the other problems with the First Data review.

4. If you want actual journalism on Cover Oregon, follow KATU. Most other media in Oregon are doing their darndest to pretend Cover Oregon and Gov. Kitzhaber hardly have anything to do with each other and they’re doing a pretty good job of downplaying or obfuscating the problems. (In fairness, there were some other pretty hardball questions at today’s press conference, including ones from the Statesman Journal’s Dick Hughes and at least one other reporter)

5. Oh yeah, Gov. Kitzhaber was warned about the Cover Oregon problems in late 2012 and he did nothing. When KATU asked him about that back in January, the Governor’s handlers cut the interview short – which got reported in the Huffington Post.

6. There didn’t appear to be any mention by Gov. Kitzhaber of the cost of all the additional staff that had to be hired to manually process the exchange applications.

7. Best moment of today’s press conference was when KATU’s Hillary Lake asked Gov. Kitzhaber “How can the taxpayers trust the report results when your role wasn’t investigated.”

Gov. Kitzhaber responded “Well the taxpayers should hold me accountable for, obviously, the problems at Cover Oregon. I’ve made no, bones about the fact that this is on my watch and the buck stops here, but also I think they should be judged [sic] by the 287,000 people we’ve enrolled in health insurance coverage and whether or not the steps we’ve taken today actually move us towards a better, more functional system.” So the buck, ah, stops here, BUT…

The good news is, though, despite saying “this is on my watch” when pinned by Hillary Lake, it appears that none of this was Gov. Kitzhaber’s fault!

8. Interesting nugget: based on Gov. Kitzhaber’s responses at the press conference, there is still some question on whether they can ever get the Cover Oregon web site up – they haven’t ruled out going with the Federal exchange web site. Gov. Kitzhaber said “We have to make the decision on how much of this technology do we want to save and use, whether or not we can still get it up, and that’s still an outstanding question, whether we want to go to the federal exchange.”

Here’s a link to the video of today’s press conference with Gov. Kitzhaber on the First Data review results of the Cover Oregon failure, and here are the links to Gov. Kitzhaber’s press release, and the full First Data report.

UPDATED 3/20 9:00pm