Health

Oregon's Health Care Website Is Worse Than HealthCare.gov

CoverOregon.com

Oregon is set to become the first state to switch over to the federal Obamacare exchange.

The state exchange, Cover Oregon, has been such a failure that moving to the once broken HealthCare.gov seems preferable to trying to salvage its system. An advisory panel recommended the decision Thursday.

An exchange official said that repairing the existing system would cost about $78 million and take a long time to implement. He estimated that switching to HealthCare.gov would cost between $4 million and $6 million, according to the Associated Press.

The full board that oversees the state exchange will vote on the decision Friday, but officials say state and federal representatives have already agreed that shifting the system to the federal marketplace in 2015 is the best approach, The Washington Post reports.

Increasing federal control over the insurance marketplaces is the opposite of what the Obama administration wanted or expected. The law initially intended for nearly all states to create and run their own exchanges, but political opposition to the law left many state officials running in the other direction.

Only 16 states plus the District of Columbia opted to set up their own exchanges in the first year; the rest relied on the federal marketplace to navigate and purchase insurance plans.

While a number of state-exchanges have seen tremendous success enrolling residents in coverage, a handful are still floundering, with Oregon being the most extreme example.

Cover Oregon has yet to sign up a single resident through the website since the exchange launched at the beginning of October. The state has instead relied on paper applications and in-person assistors. About 64,000 residents have enrolled in private coverage through the exchange thus far.

Other states, such as Maryland and Massachusetts, continue to have major problems with their exchanges as well.

The switch would have seemed impossible in the first couple months of enrollment, when the federal site was such a mess that few people were able to apply at all. The system has since been largely repaired, and the administration recently announced that 8 million people signed up for private coverage on the federal and state exchanges during the first open enrollment period.

It remains unclear whether those who have enrolled in coverage through the Oregon exchange will need to sign up again through the federal marketplace to continue their plans after 2014.

Oregon extended its deadline to enroll in insurance as a result of the ongoing technical issues. Residents have until April 30 to apply for coverage this year.

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