OUR VIEW: Cover Oregon a debacle

By Observer editorial January 13, 2014 08:55 am

As the disaster that is Cover Oregon continues to unfold, patience that was already limited, is wearing even thinner.

So thin that the officials involved with the health exchanges have stepped down and others, prior to the new year, urged Oregonians lacking insurance to head to private plans rather than enrolling in Cover Oregon. Director Rocky King, who had taken medical leave Dec. 2, announced his resignation Jan. 1, citing medical reasons. And Carolyn Lawson, the state technology executive tasked with overseeing the development of the exchange, resigned last month for personal reasons. Cover Oregon in September started withholding payments to Oracle Corp., the California-based company that was supposed to have the online exchange running well in advance of the Oct. 1, 2013, launch. 

More than $18 million has been billed since then, the Oregonian reported.

But these moves offer little consolation to Oregonians, who are stuck with the raw end of this deal. The continued chaos that has marred the non-launch of Cover Oregon helped 170,000 gain insurance at the start of 2014, Gov. John Kitzhaber said. We wonder, however, how many paper applications are sitting — or are misplaced or lacking information for enrollment — in Cover Oregon offices. Officials urged uninsured Oregonians toward the end of December to find plans from private companies rather than enroll in the exchange because their applications likely would not be processed in time for Jan. 1 coverage.

So, what about those uninsured Oregonians who sent in applications prior to the December deadline only to be told they have no insurance this month — or for the foreseeable future — unless they want to go sign up for a private plan? What about those Oregonians who decided they didn’t want to pay the fine for lack of insurance but will now see that assessment come tax time?

It’s a frustrating situation for them, especially given the seemingly proactive approach of the state, not to mention the countless days we had the singsong tune of “Long Live Oregonians” stuck in our heads.

Making positive steps forward in helping all citizens have access to health care may be a noble calling, but Oregonians deserve better than what we’ve seen over the past few months. Officials need to prioritize righting this situation — and finding a way to make sure the citizens aren’t stuck paying for the mistakes.