April 24th, 2014 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Media, Health, Politics

Washington Post: Feds Will Take Over Cover Oregon

KitzhaberGov. John Kitzhaber

The Washington Post is reporting that federal officials have decided to take control of Oregon's failed health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon.

The report comes as state officials are considering options laid out in a report from the consulting and accounting firm, Deloitte. In broad terms, the choices are to continue to try to build an Oregon system, which Deloitte has said will cost more than $25 million and take more than a year; or, to give up on an Oregon solution and spend $4 million to $6 million to switch over to the federal health insurance exchange.

Cover Oregon officials have been expected to make that decision at a meeting on April 25. But the Post, citing unnamed sources, says the decision has already been made in Washington.

A Cover Oregon spokeswoman told The Post that's not true.

Here's part of the report:


According to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about discussions that have not been made public, leaders of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the insurance marketplaces, have firmly told Oregon officials that they did not believe they had the ability to repair the exchange themselves.
The two sides have been negotiating the details of how the transition will work, including exactly how much help the federal government will furnish. The negotiations are expected to conclude in a series of meetings in Washington early next week between federal health officials and exchange representatives from Oregon, Maryland and Massachusetts.

For Oregon, one important unresolved question is whether people who have just chosen health plans through Cover Oregon will need to sign up a second time in the federal system for their new coverage to continue beyond this year.

On Thursday, a tech working group for Cover Oregon reached an informal consensus to recommend to the governing board that it join the federal insurance marketplace.

A spokeswoman for Cover Oregon disputed the idea that the decision is a fait accompli. “The Cover Oregon board is the only group with authority to make decisions about next steps,” said the spokeswoman, Ariane Holm.


Meanwhile, the New York Times is also reporting that the panel has decided to hand over the exchange to the feds:


State officials conclude it would be much less expensive to use the federal website, HealthCare.gov, than to repair the one built for their marketplace, Cover Oregon.

The Oregon exchange — like those in Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts — has been plagued with technical problems that made it difficult for consumers to enroll online. All four states have Democratic governors who strongly support President Obama’s effort to expand coverage under the 2010 health care law.

Greg Van Pelt, an adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, told Congress early this month that “the launch of the Affordable Care Act in Oregon has been bumpy,” and that “the website is only partially functioning.”

 
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