Oregon Fails Obamacare

Sarah Kliff explains why the Beaver State is shutting down its health exchange:

Oregon’s exchange has, since the get-go, had a pretty terrible run. Because of technological problems, the state couldn’t process online applications for months. Instead, it had to hire 400 temporary workers to process the flood of paper applications used as an alternative. And even by the end of open enrollment — and after spending $200 million in federal funds — Cover Oregon was the only exchange in the country where people couldn’t self-enroll in a health plan in a single sitting.

Oregon’s exchange didn’t have one single-point of authority, a state-issued review concluded in March. The project involved multiple agencies, who sometimes had different and conflicting goals. And Oregon did not set any penalties for when its main contractor, Oracle, missed deadlines.

This raises a number of policy questions, as Jason Millman points out:

Despite its technical problems, Cover Oregon has enrolled about 64,000 in private health plans since October, and enrollment has been extended until the end of the month. When the next enrollment period opens Nov. 15, will those Oregon customers have to go through the enrollment process all over again? That’s not clear, Cover Oregon technology chief Alex Pettit said Thursday. He’s scheduled to meet with federal health officials Monday and Tuesday to iron out further details.

Suderman’s lays into the state government for its incompetence:

Cover Oregon didn’t come through it at all. There were delays, and then more delays. The exchange never successfully went online. No one ever signed up for private coverage through the system. Reports surfaced showing that independent consultants had warned for years that the ambitious project was likely doomed. The warnings were ignored.

In March, Gov. Kitzhaber accepted the resignation of Cover Oregon’s acting director Bruce Goldberg, who supervised the exchange-building process, and requested that the exchange’s board remove Chief Operating Office Triz DelaRosa and CIO Aaron Karjala. It was a $300 million disaster—a model for the nation that turned out to be a total failure.

Josh Archambault predicts that several other state exchanges will fail eventually:

[A] recent hearing in DC highlighted how many of the states still lack a plan to sustain operations in the coming years. All claimed to not require additional federal funding, but even the executive director of the California exchange had to push back on independent assessments that they would be unable to sustain in future years. Hawaii was of special note, given that they don’t have any concrete plans for how to finance themselves yet.

The Obama Administration has started to show malleability in how long states have to spend establishment funds, Rhode Island being the first example of this. But those funds will eventually run out, and a GOP-run Congress is unlikely to provide a blank check to keep them running.