MEDFORD, Ore. – Two Oregon Republicans called for a federal investigation into the Cover Oregon launch Thursday, accusing the state of mismanaging millions of dollars to create the troubled health care website.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., joined with Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, to announce that they have asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an audit on Cover Oregon. If the office chooses to accept the request, Walden and Richardson want it to look into how $304 million in federal grants were spent on the program, and whether any money can be retrieved by the government.
Since its launch in October, the Cover Oregon Web site has experienced technical problems. Currently, the site allows visitors to compare plans, but people still have to fill out paper applications in order to sign up.
“It is outrageous, it is unacceptable,” Walden said. “Oregonians deserve accountability, they deserve answers.”
Richardson is running against Governor John Kitzhaber in this November’s gubernatorial race. He said today’s announcement had nothing to do with his campaign, and claimed he would make the same request if he was not running for governor. Richardson said he had tried to warn Kitzhaber about problems with the Web site back in 2012.
“Everyone that was involved in the project knew it wasn’t going to work,” Richardson said. “And yet they flipped the switch expecting the lights to go on, and there was no wiring in the walls”.
A report by the Department of Health and Human Services said a little more than 33,000 Oregonians have signed up for private insurance plans, and the governor’s office says more than 67,000 have enrolled in Medicaid.
In a statement, Kitzhaber said he has already asked for an independent review of Cover Oregon’s launch.
“No one is angrier than I am about the issues with CoverOregon,” his statement read. “Know (sic) one wants to get to the bottom of this more than I do. We do already have new CoverOregon leadership in place. And I won’t hesitate to take further action to make this right.”
Walden said there is no timetable for how long it could take the GAO to accept the request, and said the investigation could be a lengthy process.