PORTLAND -- Workers at the failed Cover Oregon health care exchange will receive bonuses to keep them on the job as a transition is made to the federal Affordable Care Act.

Cover Oregon has lost 29 workers since April, interim CEO Clyde Hamstreet said in recent letter to the board and first reported by the Oregonian.

Many of the employees who voluntarily left Cover Oregon had key skills that are not easily replaced both in IT and in health care laws and regulations, Hamstreet said in the letter. We cannot afford to keep losing valuable employees if we are to complete the workload for the remainder of 2014 and the IT transition project.

The bonuses will total $662,752, according to Cover Oregon spokeswoman Ariane Holm.

There are 161 remaining employees and 38 workers will get bonuses of one to three months of pay. ed. Most all will get at least a bonus of two weeks pay if they stick around until next spring.

The state spent about $250 million on its failed exchange web site.

Ariane Holm, Senior Public Relations Specialist for Cover Oregon shared the following statement with KGWWednesday, regarding the bonuses:

As part of our efforts to reduce costs and achieve fiscal stability, Cover Oregon has reduced staff overhead by 30% since April. Cover Oregon completed its reduction in force earlier this month. Our staff continue their work that includes the transition of technology to allow a smooth enrollment of current customers for 2015, helping those customers who have a change in circumstances such as new child, change of address or new job, as well as processing commissions or data for 1,200 agents and 15 insurance carriers. In order to do this work, we want current employees to stay with Cover Oregon and that is the purpose of the retention bonus plan. This retention plan is offered within Cover Oregon's current budget 1) to recognize employees who will choose to remain with Cover Oregon until March 15, 2015, and 2) to help ensure that Cover Oregon has needed staff as it moves forward. While we cannot predict Cover Oregon s future, we do know that we will have ongoing business responsibilities through the first quarter of 2015 because the open enrollment period is scheduled for November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015.

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