PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The task of getting Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange back on track is now in the hands of a Portland consulting firm that specializes in turning around struggling businesses.
Cover Oregon's board of directors voted this week to hire Hamstreet & Associates to take over the day-to-day duties of executive director, assess the organization's business operations and financial management, and recommend a restructuring plan.
The assessment will look at Cover Oregon's business mission, management structure and accountability, the budget and accounting controls, and a variety of other aspects of the operation.
Clyde Hamstreet, the firm's founder, has more than 20 years of experience with complex turnarounds, according to a biography on the firm's website. The firm led the restructuring of Sunwest Management Inc., a Salem company that owned a chain of senior living facilities and came under fire from creditors and investors.
Hamstreet has advised a number of companies through bankruptcy and restructuring of their finances, operations or management.
"We work with situations where there's a lot of stress on the company," he said Thursday. "There is right now because of the software issues. There's a lot of issues with how it's going to go forward whether those decisions are going to be made."
The state Legislature created Cover Oregon as a semi-autonomous public corporation. It is still considered an arm of the state government, but it has more independence than most state agencies and is supposed to be self-sufficient. Its revenue comes from a monthly charge of $9.38 for each person covered on a private insurance plan purchased through Cover Oregon. The organization also earns a smaller fee for people who apply to Cover Oregon and get referred to the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid plan for the poor.
Cover Oregon has received a total of $305 million in federal grants to fund its operations from 2011 through the end of this year. Most of the money has gone to develop technology that would allow people to compare health insurance plans and sign up, but the website has been plagued with glitches and has not been launched.
Hamstreet's contract says the firm will be paid up to $100,000 for its services and expenses. The contract lists five consultants who may be involved with fees ranging from $210 per hour to $300 per hour, which the contract says are lower rates than those charged to private-sector clients.
Steven English, a Portland attorney and head of Oregon Litigation Perkins Coie, has worked with Hamstreet in the past. He told KATU's On Your Side Investigator Chelsea Kopta on Friday that with Hamstreet at the helm there's a good chance of a Cover Oregon turnaround.
"He understands how to turn something around, which is really what we have here," he said. "We have something that is broken. He fixes broken companies."
The firm will run Cover Oregon until a permanent executive director takes over. A search panel is expected to recommend one at the end of May.
KATU's On Your Side Investigator Chelsea Kopta contributed to this report.
Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website:
- No decision on future of Cover Oregon but options narrowed to two
- Report: Federal exchange cheapest fix for Cover Oregon
- Cover Oregon goes to Congress, defends work that's been done
- 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