today brought up a wide array of options during a discussion on a bill the chief sponsor says would protect Oregonians from the impacts of Cover Oregon’s failed launch, hold those responsible accountable and ensure the same mistakes do not happen again.
Much of the debate was focused on the immediate solutions to the health insurance exchange’s issues and whether what Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas, suggested as solutions were prolonging the inevitable – the end of the exchange.
Among other things, House Bill 4154 would require the Cover Oregon board to seek waivers from the federal government to extend this year’s open enrollment period by a month and to allow Oregonians – individuals and small businesses – who didn’t receive financial assistance for which they qualify because of Cover Oregon’s technical problems to receive the tax subsidies anyway.
Gov. John Kitzhaber is already in discussions with the federal government to request the same waivers.
Currently, signing up for insurance through government exchanges is the only way to qualify for tax credits that would subsidize premiums.
Several lawmakers on the House health care committee shared doubts that a one-month extension would be enough and that the website would be complete by then. Rep. Jason Conger reiterated his previous sentiments that the website would probably never work.
“Why do we keep kicking the can down the road?” Conger said. “If we had a full picture of what’s going on, we’d probably conclude it’s never going to work.”
Fagan maintained that while she is open to amendments, she wants to focus on solutions that are achievable.
Rep. Bill Kennemer said the solutions offered in the bill are inadequate. He added that the depth and complexities of Cover Oregon’s problems are probably beyond the scope of the committee, and that perhaps a special session was in order.
Rep. Dennis Richardson, who has called for a shutdown of the Cover Oregon website, also attended the meeting to voice his wishes to end its online operation. It was inevitable anyway, he said, because there won’t be enough enrollments to keep the exchange afloat when the federal funds go away at the end of this year.
Richardson is challenging Kitzhaber in this year’s gubernatorial race. He has publicly blamed Kitzhaber for Cover Oregon’s failures.
“What I want to be very clear about is I don’t want this bill to be bogged down by the obvious politics around this issue,” Fagan replied. “This is something we can all agree on. Regardless of where you fall (politically), it doesn’t change the fact that there are Oregon families who deserve tax credits they couldn’t get because of glitches in the website.”…