If there is a state-based health insurance exchange that has fared worse than HealthCare.gov, it’s Cover Oregon.
Yesterday, the exchange’s director, Rocky King, told a pair of state legislative panels that the website will not be ready to enroll people by the end of November. The operational target date is now December 16, too late for Oregonians to achieve coverage by January 1, and King said getting it running by then is no sure thing.
“I no longer hope,” King said Wednesday, declaring that he has “taken that word out of my language.”
It turns out that Cover Oregon officials knew that the site faced significant issues ever since the exchange took it over from the Oregon Health Authority in May —despite delivering public assurances in the lead up to the October 1 launch date.
According to King, a review of the site’s code soon after the exchange assumed control of the website revealed that, contrary to contractors declaring the site 80 percent finished, only 10 percent of it had been built correctly. As a result, full testing of the site couldn’t begin until the fall— King compared the situation with being unable to test a model railroad because of a length of missing track—when another test revealed the site still wasn’t ready.
On top of that, the exchange hasn’t paid any invoices from Oracle, an IT contractor, for the past 60 days, and officials are negotiating with the company over who will pay for the continuing work on the site. King says that Oregon shouldn’t have to pay for things the contractor didn’t fix correctly.
The website has not yet enrolled a single person. It does, however, allow users to download a 19-page paper application, which can then be mailed, faxed, or submitted online (but only if users are browsing with Internet Explorer). In fact, the exchange has hired 400 temporary workers to process the paper applications.
For state Representative Brian Clem (D), however, that hadn’t kept frustration in his family from mounting over the non-functional nature of the exchange.
Clem’s mother-in-law has Lou Gehrig’s disease and lost her old insurance plan, but Clem and his wife had trouble even submitting the paper application.
“The fax machine, five times we tried yesterday. Busy every time,” Clem complained.