SALEM, Ore. -- For the first time, one of Oregon's top Democrats put his foot down Friday about the failure of the state's health insurance exchange website.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, called out the people in charge of Cover Oregon, asking them to immediately ask the Legislature for help during the February session.
"I don't want to hear in the last moment, I don't want February to come and go and you say, oh we should have used you. Governor. Executive branch. DAS. Oracle. Goldberg. Bonetto. Whatever your names are. I'm telling you, you better tell me that you need something right now,” said Courtney in a phone interview.
Courtney said seeing Cover Oregon in the state it's in is painful. He said he's furious about what's happened, and after the health care exchange is fixed, the people who are responsible for mismanaging it need to be held accountable. The state must make sure something like this never happens again.
"If anybody's playing politics with this they ought to be ashamed of themselves," Courtney said. "I'll tell you why. It's cute to play politics. The problem is nothing terrified a young couple or a senior citizen living alone in her home or his home, and then medical bills, not being able to provide medical bills scares the hell out of them. And, that should be the bottom line."
The senator told KATU News he had a difficult conversation with Gov. John Kitzhaber about the failure. He told the governor he better make sure he hires someone qualified to lead Cover Oregon. He said the governor is “devastated” about what's happened.
Courtney is also introducing a bill next month during the state's month-long session to help some of the people who are currently uninsured. That would allow state money to be used to extend coverage for approximately 4,500 people in the state's high-risk insurance pool until they’re able to get covered.
On the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, released her own plan Friday to help Oregonians sign up for health insurance. Similar to Courtney's, it calls for extending the state's high-risk insurance pool to make sure those people are covered.
Additionally, Kotek's plan would also seek a waiver from the federal government to extend enrollment deadlines, secure tax credits for small businesses, make sure Oregonians who bought a qualified health insurance plan can get federal insurance subsidies, extend whistleblower protections to employees of Cover Oregon and other proposed actions.
"When all is said and done, more Oregonians are going to be able to get help when they're sick, and Oregonians are going to save money on their health insurance," said Kotek in a news release. "Right now we must make Cover Oregon worthy of the public's confidence. We will ensure that Oregonians get the health care they need, we will hold people accountable, and we will make sure these mistakes are not repeated."
Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website:
- Colossal cost of Cover Oregon prompts lawmaker to call for end to spending
- Cover Oregon head: State might scrap all or part of failed 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