Oregon’s Health Care Website Is Worse Than HealthCare.gov

It’s so bad, an advisory panel recommended Thursday that the state move to the federal exchange.

National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
April 24, 2014, 12:36 p.m.

Ore­gon is set to be­come the first state to switch over to the fed­er­al Obama­care ex­change.

The state ex­change, Cov­er Ore­gon, has been such a fail­ure that mov­ing to the once broken Health­Care.gov seems prefer­able to try­ing to sal­vage its sys­tem. An ad­vis­ory pan­el re­com­men­ded the de­cision Thursday.

An ex­change of­fi­cial said that re­pair­ing the ex­ist­ing sys­tem would cost about $78 mil­lion and take a long time to im­ple­ment. He es­tim­ated that switch­ing to Health­Care.gov would cost between $4 mil­lion and $6 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press.

The full board that over­sees the state ex­change will vote on the de­cision Fri­day, but of­fi­cials say state and fed­er­al rep­res­ent­at­ives have already agreed that shift­ing the sys­tem to the fed­er­al mar­ket­place in 2015 is the best ap­proach, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports.

In­creas­ing fed­er­al con­trol over the in­sur­ance mar­ket­places is the op­pos­ite of what the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted or ex­pec­ted. The law ini­tially in­ten­ded for nearly all states to cre­ate and run their own ex­changes, but polit­ic­al op­pos­i­tion to the law left many state of­fi­cials run­ning in the oth­er dir­ec­tion.

Only 16 states plus the Dis­trict of Columbia op­ted to set up their own ex­changes in the first year; the rest re­lied on the fed­er­al mar­ket­place to nav­ig­ate and pur­chase in­sur­ance plans.

While a num­ber of state-ex­changes have seen tre­mend­ous suc­cess en­rolling res­id­ents in cov­er­age, a hand­ful are still flounder­ing, with Ore­gon be­ing the most ex­treme ex­ample.

Cov­er Ore­gon has yet to sign up a single res­id­ent through the web­site since the ex­change launched at the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber. The state has in­stead re­lied on pa­per ap­plic­a­tions and in-per­son as­sist­ors. About 64,000 res­id­ents have en­rolled in private cov­er­age through the ex­change thus far.

Oth­er states, such as Mary­land and Mas­sachu­setts, con­tin­ue to have ma­jor prob­lems with their ex­changes as well.

The switch would have seemed im­possible in the first couple months of en­roll­ment, when the fed­er­al site was such a mess that few people were able to ap­ply at all. The sys­tem has since been largely re­paired, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently an­nounced that 8 mil­lion people signed up for private cov­er­age on the fed­er­al and state ex­changes dur­ing the first open en­roll­ment peri­od.

It re­mains un­clear wheth­er those who have en­rolled in cov­er­age through the Ore­gon ex­change will need to sign up again through the fed­er­al mar­ket­place to con­tin­ue their plans after 2014.

Ore­gon ex­ten­ded its dead­line to en­roll in in­sur­ance as a res­ult of the on­go­ing tech­nic­al is­sues. Res­id­ents have un­til April 30 to ap­ply for cov­er­age this year.

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