Oregon Shakes Up Staff, Goes To Paper Applications After Exchange Woes


Following the news that enrollment on the federal insurance exchange Healthcare.gov had been somewhat tepid, data on some of the state based exchanges is a little more troubling. Zero people have been able to sign up through Oregon’s exchange, prompting changes in staffing and paper-based application fairs in order to get people enrolled.

Earlier this month, CivSource reported data from Xerox, which published the progress of state based exchanges it had a hand in – Kentucky, New Mexico and Nevada. Enrollees for those states number in the tens of thousands. Kentucky’s governor Steve Beshear who is a proponent of the federal health care reform law plans to keep updating progress through his website Healthier Kentucky. So far, more than 56,000 have signed up in Kentucky and 41% are under 35. The state plans targeted outreach to low-income families to make them aware of the insurance options and subsidies available to them on the exchange.

While Kentucky is an example of an early adopter state where everything seems to be working out, Oregon offers a counterpoint. Oregon chose Oracle for its state exchange, and state officials have noted that the company has already missed numerous deadlines, resulting in a wholly unusable site by the required launch date. Oregon was also an early adopter state, in terms of its support for the law and building a state exchange. The state has also paid Oracle $43.2 million to get the exchange up and running. Ezra Klein called Oregon “perhaps the worst disaster zone in Obamacare’s implementation,” which pretty well sums it up.

The tech lead on the project for Oregon Rocky King has been brought before state lawmakers for questioning and says the website will be operational by December 15-16, which will still allow enrollees to make it in before the first open enrollment deadline. In the interim, the state is launching several paper-based application fairs which will allow residents to come in and fill out an application for insurance. The Oregonian reports that hundreds of people showed up to fairs held at hotels over the weekend – volunteers and customer service agents who would otherwise be working the website oversaw the process. The state hopes to manually process some 40,000 applications before the deadline.

On Friday, Governor Kitzhaber announced some staffing changes at Cover Oregon, the insurance exchange office. Greg Van Pelt, former CEO of Providence Health System Oregon and current president of Oregon Health Leadership Council,will be coming in to provide consultative support to “make sure that Cover Oregon is dedicating appropriate resources, and in the right way, to improve the system and secure coverage for Oregonians signing up for plans beginning in January.”

The Governor also announced that he’s asked Dr. Bruce Goldberg, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, to oversee the application, eligibility and enrollment process itself. “We made a commitment to Oregon and we’re going to keep it,” said Governor Kitzhaber.