Cover Oregon leaders hit with tough questions

Credit: Tim Gordon

Cover Oregon Executive Director Rocky King reports to an Oregon legislative committee Wednesday regarding the failure of the insurance marketplace's website.

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by KGW.com & Associated Press

kgw.com

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 20 at 9:26 PM

PORTLAND -- The leaders of Cover Oregon, the state's insurance exchange, faced tough questions about the botched roll-out of the enrollment system in Salem Wednesday and Cover Oregon executive director Rocky King said he had all but given up "hope" on enrolling people through the website by the Dec. 15 deadline.

"You missed the Oct. 1 launch, you have signed up zero people via the website. Why hasn't the Cover Oregon board set a date to decide this "business" has failed and must shut down?" questioned State Rep. Mike McLane, a Republican.

The state has hired 400 more people to process applications by hand and has scheduled application fairs across the state. That is just a temporary fix.

More: Cover Oregon holds enrollment fairs across state

McLane questioned where the money to train and pay for the new hires will come from.

The Portland Business Journal reported that Oracle, the contractor who botched the website build, will be penalized five percent on their contract and new employee costs will come from those savings.

King said he had all but abandoned using the website for enrollment.

Those looking for public subsidy will need to apply by Dec. 4 and select a plan by Dec. 15th in order to have  coverage on Jan. 1.

King said Wednesday he hopes to have the Cover Oregon online registration system fully functional for individuals by Dec. 16.

Last week King announced that insurance companies offering individual and small group plans due to be phased out by the Affordable Care Act could extend their plans one more year.

McLane has questioned where King found the legal authority to make such a  decision and questioned why he made it at all, saying that Washington State did not give such an extension.

"Oregon employers have been seeking certainty on what the rules would be regarding health care. The lack of certainty has...hampered economic growth," said McLane. "A last minute unilateral dictate like this further exacerbates the confusion."

Applications getting filed manually

So far, Oregon has received about 18,000 paper applications, at 19 pages each, and is scrambling to manually file and clear them. Meanwhile, the exchange's board is demanding answers from King about when the website will work and how his team will get people enrolled on time.

Consumers said the paper application process can be long and frustrating and they are eager to have an online option.

Cover Oregon leaders have lofty ambitions, insisting that the exchange will be a "one-stop shop" for both Medicaid and private insurance. The state also wants its exchange to eventually be able to help enroll people in a wide array of public-assistance programs, not just health care.

This is one of the obstacles for the website. Exchange officials said their software still can't accurately determine whether applicants are eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, particularly for people with complex family arrangements.
 

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