Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Thursday that he and other top leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written to the General Accountability Office to request a federal investigation into Cover Oregon, the state’s troubled health exchange.
“In the nearly four months since HealthCare.gov and the state-run insurance exchanges launched, consumers have encountered numerous problems at both the federal and state level," the leaders wrote in a letter.
"Although the roll out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has been problematic nationwide, no state has had more complications than Oregon," they wrote. "The state of Oregon’s exchange website, Cover Oregon, has been such a technological failure that the site was unable to enroll anyone months after the start of the open enrollment period.”
“The catastrophic breakdown of Cover Oregon is unacceptable, and taxpayers deserve accountability,” the congressmen said.
Walden announced the request at a news conference in Medford with state Rep. Dennis Richardson, who has started a petition calling for a GAO investigation into Cover Oregon. Richardson, a GOP candidate for governor, has been warning of the flaws in Cover Oregon going back to 2011.
In September 2010, the Office for Oregon Health Policy and Research received a $1 million State Planning Grant from the federal government to study the feasibility of creating a public corporation health insurance exchange model. Since then, the state has been granted more than $304 million in federal dollars to build, test, and operate the Cover Oregon health marketplace.
Despite this investment of federal taxpayer dollars, Walden and Richardson said Oregonians remain unable to purchase health insurance coverage through the Cover Oregon marketplace website. Each of the grants the state received had clear summaries describing how the funds were to be used and what Oregon would accomplish with these federal dollars.
Federal agencies, such as the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, have a responsibility for overseeing that the tax dollars they send out are used properly. Given the current status of Cover Oregon, it doesn’t appear that this federal oversight was adequately performed, which is why the leaders requested the investigation.
The letter was signed by Walden, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Penn.).