Cover Oregon votes to join federal exchange

Credit: Louis Sierra, KGW Staff

Cover Oregon votes to join federal exchange

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by Associated Press and KGW Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

kgw.com

Posted on April 25, 2014 at 10:22 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 25 at 7:21 PM

DURHAM, Ore. -- Oregon became the first state in the nation to drop its problem-plagued online health exchange and link up with the federal website.

Cover Oregon's board voted unanimously Friday to approve an advisory committee's recommendation to ditch its troubled portal. Under the option, Oregon will use HealthCare.gov for private policies but continue using its current system for Medicaid enrollments.

Background: Board recommends dumping Cover Ore., joining federal exchange

A top Cover Oregon official said Thursday fixing the existing system would be too costly at $78 million and would take too long. Switching to the federal system will cost just $4 million to $6 million.

Residents still cannot use Cover Oregon's site to sign up for coverage in one sitting, despite the $134 million the state paid Oracle Corp. to build it.

"I think it's easy to say it's all waste, but I think that's inaccurate and I wouldn't call it that," said interim Cover Oregon director Clyde Hamstreet. "There's been a pretty good job on the outreach...people have heard of it and signed up."

More: Embattled Cover Oregon COO resigns

An independent investigation ordered by Kitzhaber last January and released this week found state managers repeatedly failed to heed reports about technical problems that prevented the exchange from launching.

The report also said no one was in charge.

Although there were numerous attempts to define the governance, roles, responsibilities, communication and decision making processes, the project seemed to lack a consistent, cohesive enterprise approach to managing the project. The problem was not a lack of attempts to create the foundational documents; the problem was a lack of authoritative direction.

It also found Oracle did a shoddy job in building the exchange and was paid not for a delivered product, but for time and materials. This payment method went against norms in the industry, the report said.

More: Read the Cover Oregon assessment

Five Oregon officials connected to the development of the Cover Oregon portal have resigned.

"There's a lot of disappointment within the staff," Hamstreet said Friday after the final decision was made. "There's a lot of passion for the project, but our job is to get the enrollment working so that people can get their health care insurance."

KGW Reporter Nina Mehlhaf contributed to this report. 

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