After a long, tormented, and (in some ways) epic saga of the Cover Oregon roll-out, what was to be the frontier’s shimmering example of a healthcare exchange for the rest of the nation has finally confessed that the website will not be ready for the enrollment deadline – the end of March.
This is after initial claims that the roll-out would occur with the rest of the state exchanges last October – a claim that was shakily validated after the website did, in fact, go live, albeit in an utterly broken and unusable format.
Driving through Oregon, it’s still not uncommon to see a Cover Oregon billboard poking above the top of an apartment complex or office building, displaying the quirky art style of Portland ad agency North, whom Cover Oregon paid $10M of federal taxpayer dollars granted by the DHHS to promote the exchange. A gathering of small, joyful looking abstract people stand below the healthcare logo, holding little umbrellas to indicate that they “got covered,” one of the taglines of Cover Oregon.
Unfortunately, using the website to “get covered” seems to be a faint glimmer of a dream. The number of people who have enrolled in Oregon by using the website alone – not a combination of website submissions and paper submissions – is a soaring Cover Oregon logo.
That is, 0.
Believe me, I’m an idealist like the rest of them. I would love to see every Oregonian – every American – possessing some form of health insurance. If someone is injured and unable to work, I don’t want to see their unpaid leave (or even loss of job) coupled with towering medical bills. Insurance is important both for the health and peace of mind of citizens. However, what doesn’t provide peace of mind is sending over $200M of federal tax dollars (that means that Mr. Thomas Smith in Oklahoma is paying for this) through the DHHS to develop an organization that has vastly underperformed and dramatically failed it’s goals on several fronts.
It also doesn’t help achieve the goal of providing realistic and responsible healthcare for Oregonians, nor is it respectful of public money, which was not only drawn from outside of Oregon, but also was spent without transparency or consideration for its source.
You do not spend public tax money on music videos. You would think that would be common sense.
Not only is this a betrayal of the public’s trust – that our money will be used with the caution and frugality expected of professionals – but it is an insult to the rest of America. Cover Oregon has talked about scrapping their website and purchasing another state’s model. Instead, I would prefer if Cover Oregon stopped spending the public’s money and dissolved themselves as an organization. This should have been done at the end of October last year, when the website failed to get operations working by it’s first extended deadline.
If not in October, then surely after it came out that Cover Oregon officials realized the website was not ready for launch, an exchange detailed in a series of emails uncovered in December.
Governor Kitzhaber himself, when challenged on the failure of Cover Oregon’s executive officers to develop the website – literally stood up and walked out of a news interview after a grand total of four minutes in the hot seat. The officials in question resigned back in January. With everyone jumping ship from Cover Oregon, I believe it’s time for the organization to go away.
“I think it’s the biggest investment failure the state’s ever seen, in terms of $300 million allocated for a website that still doesn’t work,” said Rep. Greg Walden (Ore-R) “We need answers; we need to get to the truth; we need to get to the facts. This is an incredible expenditure of money with not much to show for it.”
Cover Oregon has now requested another deadline extension. It’s because of this that I ask for the pressure to be put on this misled, power-motivated organization to disband and go away. There comes a time to stop funneling money into a broken down car, sell it, and move on. For Cover Oregon, that time is now.