PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters)
— Oregon, whose health
insurance network has been dogged by technical glitches that have
prevented even a single subscriber from enrolling online, will move
its state health exchange to the federal system, officials said on
A state that fully embraced the Affordable Care Act,
Oregon endured one of the rockiest rollouts of President Barack
Obama's healthcare law, requiring tens of thousands of applicants to
use paper forms since launching on Oct. 1.
Managers of the state exchange, Cover Oregon, determined it would
cost about $78 million to fix the beleaguered exchange, well above
the projected cost of switching over to the federal system.
On Friday, the Cover Oregon Board of Directors voted unanimously to
accept a recommendation by a technology advisory group to shift the
private insurance side of the program to the federal exchange. The
Medicaid portion will move to the Oregon Health Plan.
"I don't know that anybody sitting in the room was excited about the
proposal that's getting put forth, but at least my impression felt
like it was the best option that we had in front of us for those
constraints," Cover Oregon Board of Directors Chairwoman Liz Baxter
For Medicaid consumers, the transition should appear seamless,
officials said. But it was unclear how the shift to the federal
exchange for private insurance would play out.
"We know what we have. We need to speak with the folks in Washington
and find out how we could do that," Cover Oregon spokesman Alex
The transition could mean some Cover Oregon employees lose their
jobs, said Clyde Hamstreet, Cover Oregon interim executive director.
Cover Oregon has 190 full time and 270 temporary employees.
Officials did not rule out the possibility of one
day returning to a state based exchange.
Several Cover Oregon officials, including two past directors of the
program, have resigned in recent months amid an independent
investigation that found mismanagement of the system and a failure
to report problems from the beginning.
Oregon is not alone. Officials in Maryland and Massachusetts also
considered shifting their state-run exchanges to the federal network
after experiencing technical problems.
Maryland ultimately kept its exchange intact using special
technology developed by Connecticut to manage the system, at a cost
of about $45 million, Pettit said.