(Bloomberg) – Members of the board of Oregon’s troubled public health insurance exchange today voted unanimously to have state residents use the HealthCare.gov exchange enrollment website.
Oregon received $303 million in federal tax money to develop its state-based Cover Oregon site, and the launch of HealthCare.gov – a site developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – was rocky.
But managers of HealthCare.gov say their site recovered enough to help millions of people sign up for private “qualified health plan” (QHP) coverage.
The Cover Oregon enrollment site never recovered from its technology woes. The thousands of residents who bought QHP coverage had to apply using paper applications.
The government of Oregon strongly supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange program, and Oregon was one of the first states awarded HHS exchange construction grants.
Cover Oregon’s failure has spurred blame-trading between the state government and the project’s main contractor, Oracle Corp., the biggest maker of database software, and imperils the re-election of Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat.
“At some point you just have to say it’s time to swallow the pill and figure out: what do we do to move on and improve the situation,” Dawn Bonder, the chief executive officer of Health Republic Insurance, a startup selling plans on Cover Oregon, said in a phone interview before the exchange board met. “Looking at all the options and the available funds and the timeline, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of paths to go down at this point in time. It’s sad.”
An advisory panel to the Oregon exchange has recommended the state abandon plans to fix its website or buy technology from another state with a functional marketplace, such as Connecticut.