KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Oregon To Join Federal Health Insurance Exchange

Oregon built what is widely regarded as the worst-functioning state exchange in the nation. 

Time: Oregon Dropping Health Exchange in Favor of Federal Marketplace
Oregon is abandoning its troubled online health exchange in favor of the federal website, becoming the first state to do so. Cover Oregon’s board approved Friday a recommendation that the state switch. The vote came after it was determined that fixing the state’s current system would cost $78 million, while switching to the federal system will cost between $6 million and $8 million (Frizell, 4/24).

NBC News: Oregon To Ditch Troubled Health Insurance Exchange
Friday’s decision comes as no surprise. Independent experts recently advised the state to fold its site. Auditors have publicly lambasted its project managers for ignoring technical problems and the state is feuding with its website developer (Oracle) over payment. ... Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said that the agency is “working with Oregon to ensure that all Oregonians have access to quality, affordable health coverage in 2015" (Cowley, 4/24).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon Poised To Switch To Federal Insurance Exchange
Not all of Oregon's work will necessarily be scrapped. [Alex Pettit, Oregon's IT czar] expressed confidence that the portion of the exchange for eligibility and enrollment into the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan can be salvaged and transferred to the Oregon Health Authority. The federal government will pick up 90 percent of the cost of the Medicaid work, Pettit said (Budnick, 4/24).

The New York Times: Oregon Panel Recommends Switch To Federal Health Exchange
State officials concluded that it would be much less expensive to use the federal site,, than to repair the one built specially for the state, Cover Oregon. The first option would cost $4 million to $6 million, while the second would cost $78 million, state officials said (Pear and Johnson, 4/24).

Los Angeles Times: Oregon Leaders To Vote On Scrapping Health Insurance Exchange
 Not a single insurance seeker was able to enroll online in a private plan under the Affordable Care Act in this high-tech state, which has long prided itself on healthcare innovation and whose governor is a former emergency room doctor. Cover Oregon instead was forced to resort to paper applications (La Ganga and Reston, 4/24).

The Washington Post: Obama Administration Prepares To Take Over Oregon’s Broken Health Insurance Exchange
The collapse of Oregon’s insurance marketplace comes as federal health officials are focusing intensely on faltering exchanges in two other states, Maryland and Massachusetts. This month, the board of the Maryland Health Connection became the first in the nation to decide to replace most of its exchange with different technology. ... Massachusetts was in the vanguard of insurance exchanges, opening its own years before the 2010 federal health-care law. But the commonwealth’s insurance marketplace developed severe technical problems as it tried to make adjustments to interact with the federal system (Goldstein, 4/24).

Politico: State Health Exchange Still Broken, Oregon Looks To Join Feds
Oregon is the first state to give up technological control of its Obamacare website and join the federal exchange, an irony considering how busted was six months ago (Haberkorn, 4/24).

Reuters : Oregon’s Broken Healthcare Exchange May Move To Federal Network
Oregon, a state that fully embraced the Affordable Care Act, has endured one of the rockiest rollouts of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, requiring tens of thousands of applicants to apply on paper since launching on October 1 (Sebens, 4/25).

Meanwhile, in Colorado --

The Denver Post:  Colorado Health Exchanges Considers Adding Life Insurance To Products
The state health exchange is considering adding new products to its line, such as life insurance, to generate more cash, Connect for Health Colorado executive director Patty Fontneau told lawmakers at a review committee hearing Thursday. "As our small group (insurance) becomes more robust, often businesses purchase their group life when they purchase their group health," Fontneau said. "We could consider it and bring it to the board” (Draper, 4/24).

Health News Colorado: Lawmakers Defend Brokers, Don’t Want Exchange Selling Life, Car Insurance
Lawmakers today defended insurance brokers and don’t want Connect for Health Colorado to start selling other forms of insurance. Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, grilled exchange CEO Patty Fontneau during a legislative oversight committee hearing today about whether she would consider selling other products from car insurance to life insurance. So far the exchange sells health and dental insurance and the board recently voted to add vision insurance. Exchange board members have been reluctant to divert from Connect for Health’s mission to sell health insurance, but Fontneau opened the door Thursday to life insurance (McCrimmon, 4/24).

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