Walden presses Cover Oregon at hearing

walden-gregBy Congressman Greg Walden,

At a congressional hearing on state health insurance exchanges, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) questioned Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, about the failure of Cover Oregon and where the state goes from here with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now managing the IT infrastructure of the state exchange.

“Oregon received about $305 million in Federal grant dollars to build Cover Oregon. Only California and New York—states with about nine and four times the population, respectively—received more… But when the lights came on and the curtain went up on Cover Oregon, it failed to sign up a single person online in one sitting. Not a single one,” Walden said at the beginning of the hearing. “While the GAO did some good work on state exchanges generally, many questions about Oregon remain unanswered. How did this happen? Who was in charge? What could be done to make sure this NEVER happens again? We are still waiting for answers.”

Walden then got in to some of those issues, explaining to Allen, “In spite of your repeated assurances that the Oregon exchange is financially self-sustaining, questions remain over how the state will pay the federal government for using healthcare.gov when it is to be charged for its use in 2017. There are also concerns with the significant insurance rate increases. In your testimony, you state that the rate increases are a result of the market rebalancing itself. Whether or not this is a true rebalance or indicative of future additional rate hikes remains to be seen.”

Walden also spoke to reports—which he subsequently placed in the official hearing record—that former Governor Kitzhaber’s campaign team took over the management of Cover Oregon. “The collapse of Cover Oregon was an epic disaster for Oregonians and taxpayers across the United States. Frankly, the aftermath hasn’t inspired additional confidence in our state government or CMS. I’m deeply disturbed about the role of the former governor—who has had to resign—and the role his campaign consultants in calling the shots,” Walden added.

Walden asked Allen about how the state is proceeding forward with CMS, including additional costs the state will have to make in order to use the federal health exchange and if the federal government will try to recoup all or part of the $305 million that the state received to build Cover Oregon. Allen was unable to immediately answer many of the questions, but pledged to follow up with a response to Walden and the Committee. For full video of Walden’s questioning, please click here.

The hearing was conducted by the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Walden is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. For more information—or for full video of the hearing—please click here.

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