Cover Oregon officially admits enrollment site is broken beyond repair

The Oregon board overseeing the state’s deeply flawed health insurance exchange unanimously approved the Obama administration’s plan Friday to take over the marketplace, making Oregon the first state to drop its enrollment Web site for HealthCare.gov.

Directors of the exchange, Cover Oregon, voted Friday to drop its enrollment Web site, which hadn’t fully recovered from a failed launch Oct. 1. Oregon, which was awarded $305 million in federal grants to build the exchange, remains the only state not allowing full online enrollment in Affordable Care Act health plans.

The vote came after Cover Oregon’s top technology official publicly recommended Thursday that the switch be made to HealthCare.gov, but state and federal officials had already agreed to shut down the Oregon-run insurance marketplace for the next enrollment period, scheduled to start Nov. 15. Despite the technology troubles, about 65,000 residents have obtained private insurance plans through Cover Oregon, which has used a hybrid enrollment process requiring paper applications.

"Using the federal technology represents the lowest-risk option," said Alex Pettit, the exchange's top technology official. It is estimated that the switch will cost $5 million.

The move to the federal exchange is a disappointment for Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber and other Oregon officials who tried to position the state at the forefront of ACA implementation. Cover Oregon officials said the move to the federal exchange will have still-unknown effects on the organization's finances, current enrollees and insurance agents licensed to sell in the marketplace.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has called on Oregon to refund the federal government for money spent on the failed exchange.

Cover Oregon leaders are scheduled to meet Monday and Tuesday with officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal enrollment Web site.

Jason Millman covers all things health policy, with a focus on Obamacare implementation. He previously covered health policy for Politico.

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