WASHINGTON, D.C. – A representative of Cover Oregon told a congressional panel Thursday that he’s proud of the work that’s been done "to improve Oregonians' lives."
“While the launch of the Affordable Care Act in Oregon has been different than we hoped, over 300,000 individuals have enrolled in health insurance plans since Oct. 1,” said Greg Van Pelt, Gov. John Kitzhaber’s top adviser on Cover Oregon.
He said those words despite the failed rollout of the Cover Oregon website and the fact that it is still not working.
But U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, told the KATU On Your Side Investigators, via Skype from his office on Capitol Hill, that he doesn’t think there’s much to be proud of here.
"For heaven's sake, that's an enormous amount of money even by Washington standards. One hundred to 200 million dollars? We need answers, the taxpayers deserve to know the truth and get a clear set of answers here," said Walden.
Walden has requested the Government Accountability Office to investigate Cover Oregon.
At one point during the congressional hearing, Van Pelt was grilled by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, who wanted to know when Oregon first alerted the federal government that the state’s health exchange would not be operational.
Extensive reporting by the On Your Side Investigators has never found evidence that Cover Oregon officials ever alerted the federal government there was an issue.
Walden said there’s still a lot that’s not known about the numbers Cover Oregon is throwing out there, like the 300,000 it claims to have enrolled.
“You can be signed up, but that doesn’t mean you bought,” he said. “This is like going to the car lot and doing the test drive, but you gotta also buy the car in order to own it.”
Walden said he’s waiting to see what the real numbers are since he said the 15 percent to 20 percent who sign up for health insurance never buy it.
Twenty-eight hundred miles away from Capitol Hill, jewelry maker Brandon Czarny took in the congressional testimony with great interest from his Northeast Portland apartment. He's been trying to get coverage for an infected tooth since Dec. 12 when he applied in person at a Department of Human Services office.
Czarny showed On Your Side Investigator Anna Canzano the notebook in which he's written the myriad of phone numbers Cover Oregon officials have told him to call in the months since. He said twice over the phone they've told him they couldn't find his application.
Of Van Pelt's testimony, Czarny said, "He was trying to note everything that's good. They can talk all day -- it's the action that counts. They need to make a bigger effort to get this resolved because most of these people waiting for benefits aren't waiting for nothing. They have health or dental issues that need to be resolved."
Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website:
- Cover Oregon invites public to once-secret oversight meetings
- Top Cover Oregon IT official resigns
- Cover Oregon: Apply for insurance in April and avoid federal penalty
- Cover Oregon makes secret meetings public, won't explain the change
- Secret Cover Oregon oversight meetings may violate public meetings law
- Cover Oregon announces $1 million ad blitz to raise awareness
- Months later, Gresham woman still wondering if she has health insurance
- Portland tech company to governor: We can fix Cover Oregon's website
- State granted one-month extensioin for Cover Oregon enrollment
- First Data report: Cover Oregon didn't have federally required backup plan
- Watch: Your Voice Your Future Town Hall: Cover Oregon
- Cover Oregon confessions: Are they playing games with your health?
- New report answers many Cover Oregon questions - often for second time
- Cover Oregon directory Goldberg resigns; Governor releases investigation findings
- Cover Oregon: Still pushing for deadline extension
- Oregon tied for last in nation for young-adult health-insurance sign-ups
- Cover Oregon: Apply now if you want health insurance this year
- Federal government announces Cover Oregon investigation
- Former Cover Oregon director says 'all of us' share blame for failures
- Top Cover Oregon official refuses to discuss Lawson resignation
- Official: Oracle not allowing Cover Oregon probe access to 6 employees
- Trouble with Cover Oregon? You may still get federal tax credits
- Cover Oregon website developer pulls 100 worker off project
- Ex-Cover Oregon website chief: 'I stuck to the talking points ... they were not accurate'
- High-level IT consultant on Cover Oregon: 'They didn't know what they were doing'
- New Cover Oregon allegations: 'If it's true, someone's going to prison.'
- Paging Dr. Kitzhaber: What did the governor know about Cover Oregon collapse?
- State rep., U.S. Senate candidate calls for the end of Cover Oregon
- Cover Oregon head: State might scrap all or part of failing website
- State lawmakers to grill Cover Oregon chief
- Family struggles to sign up for insurance through Cover Oregon
- First legal complaint filed over health enrollment mistakes
- Democratic state lawmaker believes Cover Oregon can be saved
- Contractor plans to examine why Cover Oregon failed
- 'We look like fools:' A history of Cover Oregon's failure
- State rep: Ditch Cover Oregon in favor of federal exchange
- Video: Exclusive Interview: Gov. John Kitzhaber - Cover Oregon 1/9/2014
- Gov. denies prior knowledge of Cover Oregon failure, exits exclusive KATU interview
- Kitzhaber outlines Cover Oregon's next steps: 'I can't give you a date'
- Kitzhaber: Firm will review Cover Oregon failures
- Cover Oregon applications left in limbo?
- Man with cancer waiting on Cover Oregon, gets insured
- Man with cancer still waiting on Cover Oregon
- New calls for Cover Oregon to take responsibility for project failures
- Rocky King, director of troubled Cover Oregon, resigns
- Salem man says Cover Oregon error left him in health care limbo
- Some question if they'll be covered by Cover Oregon in the new year
- What doomed Cover Oregon? 'Mismanagement,' say former employees
- After resigning, Lawson not talking about Cover Oregon website failures
- Ore. health official in charge of building Cover Oregon website resigns
- Fewer enrollments challenge Oregon exchange budget
- Executive director of Cover Oregon taking medical leave
- Cover Oregon considers new solutions
- Kitzhaber calls for independent review of Cover Oregon
- New emails show Cover Oregon unraveling in days before launch
- Emails: Cover Oregon executive knew about website problems in May
- Cover Oregon complicated by state's grand vision