Democratic state lawmaker believes Cover Oregon can be saved

Democratic state lawmaker believes Cover Oregon can be saved »Play Video
Oregon state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton.

BEAVERTON, Ore. – A state Democratic lawmaker says even though it's impossible for people to sign up on the state's website for health insurance, the problem-plagued Cover Oregon site can be salvaged.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who represents Northwest Portland and Beaverton, said Monday she's frustrated and there are serious questions that need to be answered, but right now the focus needs to be on that website and making sure people can use it.

She said ditching Cover Oregon and switching to the federal health care exchange would hurt Oregonians more than it would help them.

Her response comes on the heels of Republican state representative and gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson's statement last Friday. He thinks the state should ditch Cover Oregon and switch to the federal health care exchange.

He claimed it's too little too late.

Steiner Hayward said she's willing to give the problems with Cover Oregon a bit of a pass because it is an ambitious project. She pointed to the work that's been done over the past few months to get the website running and to the 170,000 people Cover Oregon announced last week who’ve applied on paper and who now have health insurance.

"The part of our website that lets the people actually choose, compare their health plans and choose them is working extremely well," she said. "They can actually pick their health plan online so I think we've made a lot of progress. I'd be reluctant to throw the baby out with the bath water."

The senator is correct, but that's not new. You can only window-shop for plans online. You can't actually purchase the plan online or get any subsidies if you qualify.

Steiner Hayward said she's been in touch with Bruce Goldberg, who's now overseeing Cover Oregon. She's confident in his ability to get the problem's fixed.

But she said there are some tough questions that someone needs to answer down the line.

"Do I feel like there could have been a little bit more full disclosure? Yes. But do I also think that certain people who are no longer part of this project, and in fact no longer working for the state, painted a more optimistic picture than some other people at Cover Oregon might have liked? Yeah, that's probably true too," she said.

She’s referring to former Cover Oregon executive director Rocky King and former Oregon Health Authority Chief Information Officer Carolyn Lawson.

King resigned for medical reasons. Lawson resigned for "personal reasons."

The senator told KATU she has stayed at Lawson's Salem home during legislative session. She didn't say if they've talked about this.

And about the governor's role in all this? Steiner Hayward said his job is to hire good people to run a project like Cover Oregon. She thinks they didn't get him all of the information they should have about its problems.

Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: