Oregon Healthcare Website's Problems Lead to April Extension

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 11:34 AM

By Courtney Coren

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The Oregon healthcare exchange website has been such a disaster that the state's residents will have until the end of April to enroll in Obamacare-approved insurance policies.

CoverOregon.com is still unable to completely process an application for health insurance entirely online, and Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber has said that the Beaver State may have to give up running its own exchange and use the federally run HealthCare.gov for next year, Politico reported.

Oregon was a strong supporter of the president's new healthcare law since its passage. It had a Democratic governor who is also a doctor and had made healthcare one of his personal causes. The legislature was supportive. The state has been a trailblazer in healthcare innovation. It was expected that Oregon would be an Obamacare success story.

The federal government had so much faith in Oregon, that it was one of a handful of states that received funding for its website back in 2011, with the idea that it would be so successful that it would be a model for other states.

The Government Accountability Office is now investigating what happened with the $304 million in federal grants given to the state to build CoverOregon.com.

According to Politico, Oregon's efforts to build a successful healthcare exchange began going wrong early due to exchange designers who wanted the website to do too much, an incompetent contractor, and officials who weren't aware of the problems.

When the website launched, it was unable to properly calculate tax credits or residency, which were among the 48 critical errors discovered — leading the officials responsible to resign.

Oregon has enrolled about 175,000 people through its exchange and an additional 130,000 who were able to sign up for Medicaid through another avenue, largely due to an active community outreach effort.

Most of the 50,000 Oregonians who signed up for private insurance through the state had to do so using paper applications.

"I don't think anyone's happy with where we are," Bruce Goldberg, the interim Cover Oregon executive director, told Politico before he resigned last month. "We'd like to see us be in a different place. We'd like to have us an operating website. But [305,000] people with healthcare in our small state is pretty dramatic."

Kitzhaber said that he is ultimately the one responsible for the Cover Oregon failures, and that it could hurt his re-election chances in November. The Oregon Democrat has said he is proud of the progress that has been made.

His Republican opponent, state Sen. Dennis Richardson, said the problematic rollout of the healthcare exchange website is one of the reasons he is running against the Oregon governor.

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