Oregon was going to lead the way and become the shining example of how progressive delivery of health care would work, and show the rest of the country it could implement Obamacare better than anyone else. More than $300 million later and not a single successful sign-up for Obamacare, the Cover Oregon Obamacare exchange was shut down and quickly swept away during the heat of a close election campaign for governor in which the incumbent governor of Oregon at the time, John Kitzhaber was locked in a tight race with a Republican nominee challenging him.
Kitzhaber appointed Patricia McCaig, who as his campaign manager and political advisor could be viewed as the governor’s own Karl Rove, to manage the closing of Cover Oregon, as it failed to get a single Obamacare sign-up and raised questions about the Kitzhaber administration’s ability to make Obamacare in Oregon. While there is clearly an indication that McCaig was more concerned with the governor’s reelection campaign than effectively administering the Obamacare exchange at the state level in Oregon, it is also clear that in the process very legitimate questions have been raised as to what happened to the more than one quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer money spent to create Cover Oregon.
Unable to account for the money spent, and why it failed, someone between McCaig and Kitzhaber and their other advisers came up with the brilliant idea of filing a lawsuit against the information technology company that was working to fix the Cover Oregon web site, Oracle, and shift the blame for it’s failure to them instead. So they filed a lawsuit against Oracle, who has also filed counter-suits against the state of Oregon and several of Kitzhaber’s people that were involved in the Cover Oregon fiasco.
There are so many issues to be questions and so much information that needs to be known. The whole mess is perfectly suited to be investigated thoroughly in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chaired by Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Why did the governor put his top political advisor (and did that violate state law?) and consultant in charge of Cover Oregon, apparently to close it, rather than seeking to make it work and deliver on what cost the taxpayers more than $300 million. And where did all the money go, and why is it accounted for when it funded a state health care exchange that never successfully signed up a single Obamacare account? At the end of the day, how much law-breaking and corruption is exposed by the failure of Cover Oregon, and how the Kitzhaber administration handled the whole affair? What did Governor Kitzhaber know, and when did he know it?
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There are so many questions to be answered, and Cong. Chaffetz, who has done excellent work in government oversight, is uniquely qualified and in the right position to take the lead in conducting an effective and thorough investigation of the Cover Oregon affair. Cong. Chaffetz has already taken the lead in writing a letter to the director of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services seeking any documents they have related to the Cover Oregon mess. That is a great start. In addition to those questions, the disaster with Cover Oregon and the failure of several other state Obamacare exchanges, raises questions about whether we should have ever had any state exchanges to implement Obamacare. Did anyone get an advantages from the state exchanges, and all the money spent on them, or where they merely an effort to make it appear that states had any real role in implementing what might well have been a federalized one-size fits all approach to health care reform?
The combination of the Cover Oregon fiasco, and the Supreme Court’s ruling in King vs. Burwell that it’s perfectly fine to grant subsidies to Obamacare clients at the federal level calls into question the very need for having the state exchanges, as well as their effectiveness. The very idea, that there was any advantage to having those state exchanges, could be questioned by asking a certain presidential candidate’s favorite question, What difference does it make?
The answer to that question is, it probably makes little difference whether one used a state exchange or the federal one to purchase that Obamacare policy with the $5,000 deductible, the question of whether Obamacare is an epic failure is raised either way. But the further question of the taxpayers footing the bill of more than a quarter of a billion dollars, or more than $300 million, to build the Cover Oregon Obamacare exchange that didn’t sign up a single paying customer for the health insurance plan should be thoroughly investigated.
Congressman Chaffetz is the right leader to conduct this investigation and the House Committee Oversight and Government Reform that he chairs is the perfect venue to hold exhaustive hearings on what happened with Cover Oregon. Taxpayers have a right to know what happened, and where the money went, and our public policy makers need to learn from yet another mistaken attempt to administer such a program via government.