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Obamacare health exchange on Friday, citing it as yet another example of why the healthcare law should be repealed.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 policies.
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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