Federal probe into troubled Cover Oregon may be on horizon

Federal probe into troubled Cover Oregon may be on horizon »Play Video
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, (left) and state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point.

MEDFORD, Ore. -- After months of investigations into Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange that revealed troubling technology errors, and allegations of mismanagement and misspent federal dollars, a federal probe into Cover Oregon appears imminent.

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden and Rep. Dennis Richardson, a Republican from Bend and a GOP gubernatorial hopeful, are set to hold a press conference Thursday morning in Medford about what they're calling a "major development" about Cover Oregon.

The On Your Side Investigators spoke with Richardson Wednesday in Salem and while he wouldn't provide specific details about the development, he said a federal investigation was necessary.

Richardson has already been publicly calling for the federal government to step in. Last week in a newsletter, Richardson announced he launched a petition drive asking supporters to push for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an audit. He told KATU on Wednesday that he's already collected close to 5,000 signatures.

Richardson told KATU a federal probe is necessary since he has serious concerns about the transparency of the state review – requested by Gov. John Kitzhaber – taking place right now. The state hired First Data – a company based in Atlanta – to answer several key questions about what went wrong with Cover Oregon. That review costs $228,000. According to the First Data contract, there will be two final versions of the review: one that is public and one that is non-public.

"We should not have the governor spending $228,000 of taxpayer dollars to hire another evaluation of Cover Oregon and then have the wording of the contract that they don't have to disclose their findings," he told the On Your Side Investigators Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Walden is on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has already launched an investigation into the federal exchange.    

This is not the first inquiry about a federal investigation. In a story KATU first broke, former Republican state Rep. Patrick Sheehan contacted the FBI in December 2012. He told the On Your Side Investigators that he asked the FBI to investigate allegations that Cover Oregon project managers showed "dummy" web pages to federal officials to keep grant money for the project coming in.

Richardson's joint press conference starts at 9:30 a.m. in Medford. Stay with KATU.com for updates.

Richardson also announced he's holding a second press conference in Salem, co-hosted with Republican state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn. That event is set for 12:30 p.m. at the Capitol.

Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: