The board of Oregon’s state run online health care exchange has voted to shut the site down and let the federal government take control of implementing Obamacare. Even with $300 million in federal funding assistance and the supposed enthusiasm of a blue state for Obama’s signature legislation, Cover Oregon simply did not have enough enrollees to fund the technically troubled exchange. As the first state to throw in the Obamacare health market towel, Oregon may be followed by similarly troubled states like Nevada, Maryland, and Massachusetts whose exchanges are similarly plagued and who may be ready to fall like dominos right behind the Beaver State.
Cover Oregon managed to sign up a dismal 64,000 residents for health care plans but for most of them, the online website was an epic fail. Those who managed to enroll in Obamacare had to do it mostly the old-fashioned way, on paper. In addition to a general lack of enthusiasm, the website was plagued with technical difficulties, mismanagement, and feuds with the website developer Oracle, predictably over money.
Representative for Cover Oregon, Alex Pettit, says the healthcare exchange website could be rebuilt for an estimated $78 million. However, Governor John Kitzhaber has made the more responsible economic decision to dump Cover Oregon into HealthCare.gov and be finished with what has no doubt been the source of massive state headache. Even then, the “merge” will cost the state an estimated $6 million.
Based on HealthCare.gov’s own track record, Oregonians who dutifully signed up for government mandated healthcare are in for a rocky transition. Those poor souls about to be “merged” into the federal exchange are likely going to be buried in a paper trail fraught with error, technical difficulties and frustrating healthcare mix-ups.
Oregon state coffers may take a hit as well as the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating whether Cover Oregon mismanaged their federal assistance funds. $248 million of the approximately $300 million the state received has already been spent – almost half of which went to building the flawed website. If the GAO finds that the funds were mismanaged, which is highly likely, Oregon will have a large debt to repay making their implementation of the supposedly Affordable Care Act grossly unaffordable.
Cover Oregon had the well-deserved reputation of being the worst of the state Obamacare exchanges that have gone live. Thus, it is no surprise that the anemic health care marketplace has been shut down. Other states like California and New York have exchanges that seem to be managing robust enrollment and have wrangled any technical difficulties into submission. One state, Maryland, scrapped its entire health care exchange website and opted to foot the bill to rebuild their exchange, modeling it after the successful market place in Connecticut.
Why individual states have such a variance in their ability to develop and implement the Obamacare health exchanges is a mystery. Given the precedence set by other highly technological consumer sites, for example, Amazon.com, it would seem to be a fairly cut and dried process.
In this day of internet savvy and technological advancement, the inability to create and maintain a webpage on either the state or federal level is simply an epic fail and certainly has not improved the image problem Obamacare has in the national eye. The Oregon health care exchange may be the first state exchange to admit failure and shut down but it is likely that other similarly troubled states will follow suit. Rather than try to maintain any semblance of autonomy, it may be easier and financially more realistic to opt to become one with HealthCare.gov, the massive federal exchange that is truly the ugly poster child for government mandated health care insurance.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
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