Office of the House Speaker
900 Court St., N.E., Room H-269
Salem OR 97301
January 24, 2014
Jared Mason-Gere (541) 206-8231
House Leadership Pursues
Increased Cover Oregon Accountability
Action will help Oregonians access coverage,
improve accountability and increase IT oversight
SALEM- Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) today announced a targeted plan for legislative action during the 2014 Legislative Session to address problems with Cover Oregon. The proposals aim to help Oregonians who have faced challenges with the online insurance exchange’s website; ensure public accountability for the mistakes with the Cover Oregon rollout; and prevent future calamities from occurring during publicly contracted technology projects.
While the number of Oregonians signed up for more affordable insurance coverage has been growing, mistakes with the roll out of the website have meant some potential enrollees have missed enrollment deadlines, tax credits, or subsidies offered to individuals and small business owners. Additionally, details are coming to light that show a lack of accountability on the part of Cover Oregon and their private contractors. Legislative efforts will ensure that steps are taken to hold the appropriate people accountable for mistakes and introduce improved mechanisms for managing large technology projects.
“When all is said and done, more Oregonians are going to be able to get help when they’re sick, and Oregonians are going to save money on their health insurance,” said Kotek. “Right now we must make Cover Oregon worthy of the public’s confidence. We will ensure that Oregonians get the health care they need, we will hold people accountable, and we will make sure these mistakes are not repeated.”
Kotek announced that the legislature will pursue the following actions during the 2014 Legislative Session that will:
· Extend the state’s high risk insurance pool (OMIP) to allow coverage for OMIP members that were not enrolled prior to the beginning of the year.
· Direct Cover Oregon to seek a waiver from the federal government extending enrollment deadlines in order to increase enrollment numbers.
· Direct Cover Oregon to secure federal tax credits for small businesses eligible for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).
· Work to ensure Oregonians who purchase a qualified health plan can access federal insurance subsidies.
· Extend existing state agency whistleblower protections to employees of Cover Oregon.
· Require that complex and costly contracts, in excess of $1 million, through Cover Oregon or future public corporations undergo an independent quality assurance review before and during the project.
· Provide spending authority for an independent, third party audit of Cover Oregon’s management, governance, and procedures, to ensure a complete understanding of what went wrong.
· Require that the legislature, in addition to the governor, receive routine briefings on the findings and be full partners in the audit.
· Allow the governor to remove the entire Cover Oregon board of directors in a single year.
Kotek said that in order for Oregonians to have confidence that they will be able to successfully navigate the health care exchange, the Legislature needs to take action to ensure problems with the organization are addressed.
“Over the coming months there will be a lot of positive stories about Oregonians who are getting coverage for the first time, or who are seeing their premiums cut in half,” said Kotek. “That’s the good news; but we need to take these steps now to help people, ensure accountability, and give Oregonians confidence in public contracts in the future.”