Covered Oregon is the glaring exception to the relatively high success enjoyed by state-run Obamacare exchanges — after nearly two months, 400 hires and $3.8 million, the site hasn't enrolled a single person in private health insurance. And, after being grilled on Wednesday by state lawmakers, Covered Oregon officials admitted that the exchange won't be functional until December 16, the day after the deadline to sign up for January 1 insurance. If you want insurance in Oregon at the start of 2014, you'll have to fax in or mail your 19-page application by December 4.
And mail might be your best bet. Democratic state Rep. Brian Clem tried to register his mother-in-law, who was kicked off her old plan after getting Lou Gehrig's disease. "We were excited about Cover Oregon, because the system before that really sucked," Clem said during Wednesday's hearing. The website didn't work, and neither did the fax line. "The fax machine, five times we tried yesterday," he said. "Busy every time."
Covered Oregon was meant to be a one-stop-shop for Oregonians signing up for Medicaid and private insurance. So far, 25,000 individuals and families have submitted paper applications, Reuters reports, though more than half of the applications are for Medicaid. That's in addition to the 70,000 who signed up for Medicaid after being deemed eligible by the state.
And, like in much of the country, now is also a really bad time to be an elected official from the Democratic party in Oregon. Oregon state Sen. Tim Knopp, a Republican, told the Northwest Watchdog exactly who should be blamed for all of this. “My belief is that Oregonians need to hold people accountable for the actions that they make," he said. "And for this particular plan, it’s President Obama and essentially every Democrat who voted for it. And in the state of Oregon it’s Gov. John Kitzhaber who is responsible for its implementation.” Meanwhile, six Republicans are lining up to run for Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley's seat, and a phone campaign is arguing that he repeated the "lie" President Obama told about keeping now cancelled plans. "Call Sen. Merkley...and ask why he lied," the phone messages say. In the law's defense, Merkley sent a statement arguing that Obamacare has reduced Oregon's uninsured rate by 10 percent (thanks to early Medicaid enrollment).
And while this is bad for Oregon residents whose old plans were cancelled and, less importantly, elected Democrats, it's just one more reason for critics of the law to gloat. Saying "almost" all of the state-run exchanges are doing well just isn't as strong, especially when the federal exchange still needs work.