Cover Oregon director to take medical leave

Credit: Photo by Mike Lloyd, courtesy The Oregonian

Rocky King. Photo by Mike Lloyd, courtesy The Oregonian


by Cornelius Swart, Staff

Posted on December 2, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 4:08 PM

DURHAM, Ore -- Cover Oregon Executive Director Rocky King will step down for a three-month medical leave starting Dec. 3, a state spokesperson said Monday.

The Cover Oregon Board said it would begin looking for an interim executive director during King’s leave of absence. Bruce Goldberg, M.D. will serve as director until the position can be filled, the state said.

"Rocky has been dedicated to building Oregon’s health insurance exchange so that individuals and small businesses can get coverage," said Gov. John Kitzhaber. "I know how difficult it is for him to leave during this crucial time, but he has to put his health first. I have full faith in Bruce Goldberg to continue to get people enrolled and address Cover Oregon’s IT issues."

The governor, who was out sick with a cold Monday, declined requests for on-camera interviews.

King said it was a tough decision but his family and doctor told him he had to make it. 

It's unclear if he will come back to work after three months.

Cover Oregon also announced Monday that it had enrolled 3,500 residents in health insurance to date.

More: Cover Oregon leaders hit by tough questions

"[Cover Oregon] is moving forward quickly to ensure that all completed applications received by Dec. 4 will be processed in time for coverage to start by Jan. 1, 2014," state officials said.

Cover Oregon's website had been racked by problems since its launch Sept.1. The website had been unable to enroll anyone at all and King stated in Nov. that he had given up hope that the site would work by the Dec. 15 deadline for coverage. State officials have pointed the finger at tech contractor Oracle, while hiring some 400 workers to process paper applications.

“We are starting to see enrollments and are gaining momentum," said King. "I am confident we are on the right track to get people the health coverage they need. While our work is not done, I had to make the difficult decision to focus on my health now so that I can get better.”

The state offered the following reminder for those seeking coverage through the health insurance exchange:

• Dec. 4, 2013: Applications must be complete and postmarked by this date for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.

• Dec.15, 2013: Deadline for enrollment forms to be returned (postmarked) to Cover Oregon. People who are eligible for a private plan will receive an enrollment packet in the mail from Cover Oregon.

• March 31, 2014: Open enrollment for Cover Oregon ends. The next open enrollment period begins Oct. 15, 2014 for coverage effective Jan. 1, 2015.

More: Full coverage of health care reform

Photo of Rocky King, by Michael Lloyd, courtesy The Oregonian