News | Oregon

Statesman Journal: Cover Oregon Update On Tap

Statesman Journal | Nov. 20, 2013 2:21 a.m. | Updated: Nov. 20, 2013 11:24 a.m.

Contributed By:

Saerom Yoo

Cover Oregon leaders likely will find themselves in the hot seat today, as legislators from three committees are scheduled to fire off some tough questions about the state health insurance exchange’s botched rollout.

“Why is our website not up and ready?” Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, said Tuesday. “Is there any good so far that we’ve been able to accomplish? Why are other states’ programs running when ours aren’t? Were we working with the same people as the federal government? Is this going to cost us money?”

Leaders of Cover Oregon and Oregon Health Authority are scheduled to give updates to three committees today — the first in a three-day informational Legislature session — at the Capitol. At 11 a.m., the Joint Committee on Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology will meet in Hearing Room C. At 2 p.m., the House Interim Committee on Health Care and the Senate Interim Committee on Health Care and Human Services will meet jointly for the first few agenda items, including a report from Cover Oregon.

Cover Oregon is the state health insurance exchange meant to facilitate the rollout of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in Oregon. It started Oct. 1, but because of technical problems, the marketplace has not been fully functional. Starting this month, Cover Oregon resorted to manually processing applications, hiring about 400 workers to review forms by hand.

No one has yet been able to enroll, although Cover Oregon has begun receiving enrollment packets in the mail.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, urged his colleagues Tuesday to find answers on Cover Oregon’s problems during today’s meetings.

“The exchange is a critical link in our efforts to expand access to healthcare for uninsured Oregonians and lower costs for small businesses,” Courtney said in a statement. “Oregonians have questions. What went wrong with the roll out? How are they going to fix it? When are they going to get it right? Is the website contractor doing everything it can? Our people need to know.”

Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson, who is on the IT committee, said the main goal of today’s hearing with Cover Oregon is to understand exactly what’s working, what isn’t and who should be held accountable. She’s also interested in learning about the contractors and their performance, the Portland Democrat said.

“How can we overcome these glitches as quickly as possible so we can move forward with the goal of all Oregonians who qualify to sign up for coverage that they need,” Vega Pederson said.

The major stumbling block for Cover Oregon has been a function of the website that is supposed to determine applicants’ eligibility for tax credits or public health insurance for low-income adults and children. The feature hasn’t been working accurately or consistently, executive director Rocky King has said.

But Cover Oregon has begun slowly allowing customer service representatives, partners and agents to use the function. Still, front-to-end enrollment is not possible online. Starting today, Cover Oregon will host application fairs across the state to help people with their forms.

syoo@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6673 or follow at Twitter.com/syoo

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