Last year, as the launch date for Obamacare's insurance exchanges drew closer, Oregon was held up by the law's supporters as a model of a state that was doing things right. Liberals touted the Oregon's whole-hearted embrace of Obamacare and its effort to recruit young participants with an ad featuring a folk singer with an acoustic guitar. A Washington Post article described Cover Oregon as “the White House's favorite health exchange.” But a funny thing happened on the way to nirvana. Oregon's health insurance exchange turned out to be the most dysfunctional one in the United States, and last Friday the board of the state's exchange threw in the towel.
After spending $248 million of the $303 million in federal money allocated for the exchange, Oregon officials determined the best course of action would be to scrap the website altogether and simply default to the federal healthcare.gov website. Cover Oregon's website was so broken that it was the only exchange on which individuals could not completely sign up for health insurance online.
|"The state's quality-assurance contractor had been raising glaring red flags for almost two years."|
Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber insisted that he first learned about the problems in October 2013. This even though by that point, the state had already missed the Oct. 1 launch date for the exchanges. Furthermore, an investigation by local news station KATU revealed that “the state’s quality-assurance contractor had been raising glaring red flags for almost two years.”
What’s breathtaking is that not only has the state wasted so much federal money due to utter incompetence but, according to the Oregonian newspaper, the Obama administration will not be asking Oregon to return the money. And it is estimated that it will cost roughly $5 million more to make the transition to the federal exchange. In other words, if the administration gets its way, federal taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for the entire fiasco.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in reaction to the news of Cover Oregon's demise: “Federal taxpayers should not be stuck with the bill twice for this disastrous project. The administration needs to stop treating taxpayers as a bottomless piggy bank to bail out one botched Obamacare project after another. Poor execution by this administration is adding billions to the cost of a program that is already too expensive.”
Throughout 2013, the popular narrative on the left was that Obamacare would function smoothly in states where the government tried to make it work, and would only run into problems in Republican-led states that were trying to sabotage it. The Oregon debacle proves otherwise.