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Oregon’s Obamacare exchange delayed and over budget

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Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein,Obamacare,Health and Human Services,Oregon,Health Care,Analysis

With roughly 50 days remaining until President Obama’s health care law is set to begin signing up participants, at least one state won’t be fully ready.

Residents of Oregon will not be able to go online to shop for health insurance through the new government-run exchanges on Oct. 1, the deadline for Obamacare’s exchanges to be up and running, the Oregonian reports. Instead, the website won’t be accessible in mid-October “at the earliest.”

Until that time, residents will only be able to access the exchange through “certified insurance agents and ‘community partners,’” according to the report.

The success of Obamacare hinges on the ability of each state to sign up a critical mass of 100,000 to 125,000 new participants in its exchanges once open enrollment begins on Oct. 1. Benefits kick in on Jan. 1, 2014. Any delay or hindrance that makes it more difficult to sign up new beneficiaries is a blow to the program.

Obama administration officials have been extremely secretive about the status of the health insurance exchanges, merely insisting repeatedly that they are going to be ready on time.

But there have been a number of signs that all is not well. The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, has just warned that the federal government is months behind testing data security on state exchanges.

So, the news from Oregon could be a sign of more to come. Perhaps this is what we’ll see from lots of other states — something called health insurance exchanges will open on Oct. 1, but they just won’t be fully operational.

In addition to delays, the Oregonian reports that the implementation is already well over budget: “In addition to working out kinks, Cover Oregon is also dealing with a $16 million shortfall. The Oregon Health Authority, a sister agency, had expected to fund computer programming for Cover Oregon through June with a $59 million federal grant. But documents show the grant ran out in April, due to a ‘misprojection’ of remaining funds.”

It should be noted that Oregon is a liberal state that has been held up as an model by Obamacare supporters because its government is enthusiastically cooperating with the implementation of the law.

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