Editors’ Note: We receive lots of responses to Lane Solutions articles and opinions. Because we’ve been so concerned with the unintended consequences of Cover Oregon we were particularly touched by the story below. It’s from “Angie,” a Lane County resident who experienced firsthand the effects of this $248 Million disaster.
My brother is living with me and he is on SSI and also receives Medicare. He called the 1-800 number to see about getting help with supplementary insurance due to his health and income.
I wanted someone to know that whoever is answering the phones needs to be a little more considerate of the elderly that are calling. The guy that my brother talked to was very rude and told him he was not going to take him off of Medicare in order for him to get free health care and hung up on him. My brother was very upset. My brother was not looking for a handout and was not asking to be taken off Medicare.
I would like you to pass along this information to whoever takes charge of the employees answering the phones.
If you would like to talk to my brother his name is “John” and his phone number is (withheld).
I just thought maybe someone should know about this incident.
Lane Solutions responds: “Angie” – Now a lot of people know about your predicament. And like them, our hearts go out to you and your brother.
If any of our readers have ideas that could help Angie and her brother, please email Lane Solutions at Lane@HealthyCommunitiesOregon.com
The last two issues of Lane Solutions told the story of local dentist Cedric Hayden, DDS. He spent $200,000 of his and his brother’s money to outfit a mobile dental clinic, which they wanted to park in rural areas of Lane County and offer free dental care to low income residents.
But not a single rural city wanted it. Why? Most thought it was a great idea – just not in their towns.
Connecting the dots, Dr. Hayden saw a sad pattern emerging among the “public servants” who profess to care so very much about their less well off constituents and found a place where his skills and compassion would be welcome.
The place? Chuuk, Micronesia, where around 55,000 people have not one dentist.
Chuuk welcomed Dr. Hayden, offered him a place to park his mobile clinic and a six month license to practice.
His first team of volunteers spent their Christmas vacation filling cavities in Chuuk. Dr. Hayden plans to spend three months each year there offering dental care.
We say, “Dr. Hayden – Thanks for your generosity. Too bad it wasn’t welcome here.”
– The Oregonian, by Charles Jennings, CEO of Swan Island Networks, Inc., February 22, 2014
…I decided to do a rare bit of housecleaning in my home office. As I was tossing out unwanted mail, I noticed the October, 2013, issue of one of the many high-tech trade magazines that periodically show up at my house, unsolicited. What caught my attention was a teaser on the cover about an article inside….
The project? Cover Oregon.
Here are a few choice quotes from the article:
Article subhead: “With the launch of Cover Oregon, state officials expect their commitment to design thinking to pay off.”
“Thanks to design thinking … the Oregon team feels a lot more confident of hitting the mark,” said Cover Oregon CIO Aaron Karjala…
As we now know, the result of all this balderdash was a high-tech train wreck.
But let’s be fair: Cover Oregon is hardly the first big government IT project to fail. The list includes the Affordable Healthcare website and various sustainable energy programs under President Obama; the SBInet border control project under President Bush ($1 billion spent, zero results); and countless others….
Our Response & Your Comments
“Cover Oregon is hardly the first big government IT project to fail. ”We wonder why?
First, There’s a nasty little secret about government. It’s that is sees its first job as (are you ready?)…creating more government. More government means job security, more people to hire who will produce more government and, best of all – more money, which will lead to more governmental functions and (you guessed it) more government.
When you or we need a new sofa, table saw or whatever, our kneejerk reaction is to go to stores, identify the best product for the lowest price and buy it. We don’t start building the sofa or saw ourselves.
Not so with government. Because they know that if they do it themselves they’ll need to hire people, managers to manage them, assistants to serve them and lawyers to defend them. Who will hire more people, etc.
Does it cost more? Sure, but they have an infinite supply – your money. Does it result in “IT train wrecks?” Yeah – but you’ll pay for that, too.
So remember “The Iron Rule of Government:” More government always means even more government – at your expense.”
In Lane Solutions Issue # 58 we introduced readers to Dr. Cedric Ross Hayden, DDS. His goal was simple – he and his brother had spent $200,000 of their money to construct a mobile dental clinic. Dr. Hayden wanted to take it around Lane County, park it in rural, underserved cities and provide free dental service to low income residents. Sounds like a good deal. Right?
Here’s where it all went wrong. Rural cities didn’t want it. One said they had a zoning ordinance prohibiting shipping containers from being parked in town. Yes, Dr. Hayden’s clinic was a reconfigured shipping container. But inside, you could barely tell it from your own dentist’s office. Would the city give a waiver for medical or dental equipment? “Nyet,” ruled the commissars.
According to Dr. Hayden, who only wanted to serve the poor, about whom these cities say they care so much, the typical reaction was “Great idea – just not in my back yard.”
Watch for Lane Solutions Issue #60 and find out why a faraway island country welcomed Dr. Hayden with open arms – and open mouths waiting for a good dentist.
Ed. Note: This is the first of a three part series
Dr. Cedric Ross Hayden, D.D.S had a dream. He wanted to outfit a mobile dental clinic, staff it with volunteer dentists and hygienists, move it around rural areas in Lane Co. and offer regular, free dental care to low income Oregonians.
Here’s how it would work: Dr. Hayden would drive the clinic to a small town. He’d park it there long enough to meet local dental needs. Then he’d take it to nearby rural towns, parking it for a week or so. His goal was to visit these towns three times a year, providing regular dental treatment.
Was Dr. Hayden asking anyone to pay for his clinic? No. He and brother Matthew had already funded it with $200,000 out of their own pockets. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?
As ESPN sportscaster Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” Because his dream would turn to dust.
What went wrong? Why would small burgs in Lane Co. not welcome him and his mobile dental care facility with open arms? And why does Micronesia have the dental care that Lane County didn’t want? Find out in the next issue of Lane Solutions as we focus on one town’s “Thanks but no thanks.”
– By Steve Benham, KATU: Feb 10, 2014
SALEM, Ore. – Concerns about colleges and universities cutting faculty hours to avoid paying health benefits under the new federal health care law has prompted state Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, to introduce legislation to make the practice for all Oregon employers illegal.
Senate Bill 1543 is scheduled to get a hearing before the Senate Health Care and Human Services committee today at 3:00 p.m.
Dembrow, who has taught English at the Cascade campus of Portland Community College for years, told KATU last week he’s heard “through the grapevine” and has read news reports that some community colleges “have been advised to reduce their teachers’ hours” in order to get out of paying health benefits to some employees.
Under the new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), companies that employ 50 or more employees are required to provide their workers with health insurance if they work an average of 30 hours or more a week…
Our Response & Your Comments
We’ll ignore the delicious irony of colleges, probably the single biggest institutional fans of ObamaCare, slashing professors’ hours to get out of paying for…ObamaCare!
Our larger point is that laws like these are the steroids that drive government hyper-growth. Here’s why…
First they pass ObamaCare, which is 2200 pages of dizzying complexities, dazzling contradictions and unintended consequences. Now you need more laws to clean up the complexities, contradictions and, most of all, unintended consequences. Thus emerges from the swamp Dembrow’s bill.
Then the new law demands more government to make it work. How do you prove in court that
State U cut Prof. Propellerhead’s hours to avoid paying his ObamaCare bill? Hire psychiatrists to muck about in his brain? Plus you need investigators to hunt down evidence. They need lawyers, offices and assistants. Plus you need new laws to empower the investigators and lawers. And the beat goes on and on – as government matasaticizes at your expense.
By Dusty Lane, KATU.com Staff Jan 10, 2014
KATU’s Investigators spent weeks digging through thousands of pages of audits conducted by Maximus, the company the state hired to provide quality-control assessments of the project beginning in its early days….
…there are already red flags about the scope of the project – namely Oracle’s future support for the aging software the state has decided on…
Maximus notes that staff members are quitting faster than they can be hired…
The IT team has gone through multiple iterations of the software, and there are serious worries about security…
…Maximus portrays a project that’s dangerously close to out of control…
With less than a year to go until the deadline, the progress that’s been made is insignificant in comparison with what’s left to be done…
Security issues are getting worse…
Cover Oregon begins to change its message, suggesting the task was impossible to begin with…
Our Response & Your Comments
Yes, we do look like fools. But we suggest a slight change of title to “All You Clowns Look Like Fools.” And liars. And finger pointers. And whiners. We could go on, but you get the point. And any of our readers who actually needed health insurance could add more colorful adjectives.
Cover Oregon has indelibly stamped itself as the prototypical government program: expensive, beaurocratic without anyone really being in charge, over budget, non functioning, and nobody’s to blame except the company (Oracle) that took advantage of the poor “public servants” who cooked the program up and then cocked it up beyond all recognition.
Maybe it’s appropriate that it’s Gov. “Hands off” Kitz’s signature program.
Remember that old bumper sticker – “If you think health care’s expensive now, just wait til it’s free”? Well, folks, you’re now seeing it in real life!
Seven weeks after launch, Oregon’s online health insurance exchange Cover Oregon still hasn’t enrolled one person, surprising out-of-state onlookers who would have voted Oregon “most likely to succeed.” An Associated Press story puts it this way:
“With all the problems facing the rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, nowhere is the situation worse or more surprising than in Oregon, a progressive state that has enthusiastically embraced the federal law but has so far failed to enroll a single person in coverage through the state’s insurance exchange.”
– StatesmanJournal.com, November 21, 2013
We’re shocked! Shocked! The Holy Grail of Liberalism (oops. We meant the less toxic term “Progressivism”) – universal health care – isn’t working? Does this mean that a few wizards in Salem can’t cook up a plan that works for 3,899,353 Oregonians? How can this be?
Some wise guy once opined that “History repeats itself – the first time as comedy and the second time as farce.” We’re not sure which this is. But we are sure that Central Planning has never worked. Not in the Soviet Union. Not in Bulgaria. Not in Cuba. And certainly not in Oregon – much less in Washington, D.C.
Why? Because a few bright guys, even if they’re “The Best and the Brightest” simply aren’t bright enough to make decisions that should be shaped by millions of people making billions of decisions about their own lives and their own money. The Planners always end up with the results they got in the centrally planned Soviet Union – millions of bottles of sun tan lotion in Siberia and thousands of fur parkas in temperate Yerevan.
To paraphrase another wise guy – economist Adam Smith, never allow any person or group of people to direct the citizenry how to allocate their resources because a) he or they can’t do it and b) anyone who thinks he can should in no way be trusted to do so.
Cover Oregon is our state’s implementation of the Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare. Oregon’s proactive development and huge investment in rolling out the ACA in our own way along with other new health care policies has often resulted in our state being heralded as a national leader in health care reform.
Certainly no politician in Oregon has aligned and attached themselves more closely to all of this than Governor John Kitzhaber. Dr. Kitzhaber has been working hard to be just that…the Doctor Governor. Numerous other politicians have put their names next to “health care reform” as well—need we even mention President Obama?
But with Cover Oregon now trailing the rest of the nation in ACA enrollments and with difficulties plaguing the national system, will there be significant fallout in next year’s elections and who will be the target of the blame?
Let’s start with 8 facts about the state of the ACA Rollout:
1) When we say Oregon is trailing the rest of the nation in health care signups through its new insurance exchange, what we really mean is that no one has signed up yet. Cover Oregon has yet to enroll any Oregonians and is likely only accepting paper applications for the rest of 2013, making its website useless for signing people up for coverage that will be starting on January 1st.
3) Some 145,000 Oregonians who currently have individual health plans will lose those plans by the end of next year because they don’t comply with ACA requirements. Originally, these plans had to expire by the end of this year. Now, Oregon’s Insurance Commissioner has allowed insurers to extend health plans through next year, if they choose to. The delay still leaves a lot of uncertainty in the system but makes up for the fact that there is no easy way to sign-up for compliant insurance plans on the exchange right now. The only way to do that is with a paper application that will take weeks at least to process. For those who try, they cannot easily know in advance what subsidies they are eligible for, which means they may end up paying more for the new policies that provide more coverage than they previously had. And all of this is not to mention the promises numerous politicians made—from the President to members of Congress—that current health insurance plans would not change.
4) The President announced last week that these existing health insurance plans can be extended through next year, followed by a similar decision here in Oregon. However, it’s not clear whether health insurance companies can or will keep the plans available for consumers at the same price.
5) There are countless anecdotal reports of people with existing plans that are not being canceled because they meet the ACA’s requirements but are going to become much more expensive starting next year. We were not able to find conclusive data on the number of Americans in this situation though there are many individual cases that are examples.
6) For those of the 145,000 Oregonians who will eventually lose their current insurance but do find new plans on the Cover Oregon exchange, many are discovering the plans cost more. One reason is because there is now less flexibility in what kind of coverage level you can choose. Many younger people are not quick to sign up on the exchanges for fear that their insurance will cost more in order to subsidize older and sicker people—one of the primary purposes of the ACA in the first place. And of course, if younger, healthier people do not sign up on the exchanges the result may be the financial collapse of the entire system.
7) Then there are some of those whose health care plans were cancelled but can afford a new plan on the exchange because of a provided subsidy. Take a couple in Vancouver,Lindsey and Jesse McChesney. Through Washington’s new “Healthplanfinder” (which seems to actually work, unlike Cover Oregon), the couple can find a new plan that is only $30 more per month due to a federal subsidy of $230 each month. The problem is not the cost but rather the shift away from market-based prices on the supposed marketplace. Here’s Lindsey’s take on it: “Before this law goes into effect, I was paying for my health care myself. Now, I have to get help from the federal government to pay for it. So I’m just another person on welfare, basically.” How big of a welfare state are we talking about? “About 55 percent of the Oregonians who must buy insurance from Cover Oregon will be eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay their monthly premiums….” About 17 million people nationwidecould qualify for federal subsidies.
8) Lastly, the economic impact of the new system appears to be significant. A survey of businesses that have 40-500 employees found that “Health care reform already is leading many businesses to cut workers’ hours, hire part-timers or stay below the employer mandate’s 50-employee threshold.” Additionally, “more than 30 percent of franchise businesses have reduced workers’ hours because of the law, which counts anyone working more than 30 hours a week as a full-time employee. The survey found that 12 percent of non-franchise businesses have cut employees’ hours due to the law.”
Besides those needing insurance, who else does a failure of Cover Oregon hurt?
Now that we’ve looked at the facts about the Cover Oregon and ACA rollout, let’s look at who may be impacted now or on Election Day, 2014:
1) Governor John Kitzhaber: In a previous post about a possible matchup between Kitzhaber and Republican Representative Dennis Richardson in next year’s gubernatorial election, we wrote the following:
While Kitzhaber is popular amongst voters and does not seem to have lost his likability, his last year of governing has not been his best. Representative Richardson’s challenge in this area is to introduce himself to voters and show how his style of leadership will serve them better than Kitzhaber’s.
A continued failure of Cover Oregon may be a significant blow to Dr. Kitzhaber’s reputation because of how much he has personally staked on health care reform.
2) Members of the Oregon Legislature: You can check out the voting records of legislators on Senate Bill 99 (2011), the implementation of Oregon’s Health Insurance Exchange Corporation. Whether Cover Oregon will be a major election issue in legislative elections next year remains to be seen. But many incumbents will not be able to run from this and other votes on their records.
3) Members of Congress: Politicians are now running from Obamacare as if it were on fire. Or at least some members of Congress who are up for reelection next year are distancing themselves from the law and from the President. Two recent examples are Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon’s 5th District who said that Obama was “grossly misleading to the American Public” about the health care law and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley—who is attracting a lot of Republican challengers after his first term—who surprised many by signing onto a bill modifying the ACA.
4) Government in general: Polling shows that “dissatisfaction with government” has beenthe most important problem facing the country, according to voters, for the last two months—a first since the question was first asked in the 1930s. Furthermore, only 19% of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing most or all of the time.
5) President Obama: The President is not up for election again but he does face the challenge of pushing his agenda during the rest of his second term. This only becomes more difficult as the health care debacle drags down his presidency. The same polling mentioned above shows he is at the lowest approval rating of his presidency—39%. He is beingespecially lampooned over his endlessly repeated campaign promise that Americans could keep their health care plans and doctors if they so desired. This promise, of course, has since been broken.
Accounting Error Causes 16.2 Million Shortfall to Implement Oregon Healthcare Exchange…Before it Even Starts—Expect Millions More in Shortfall Before it is Done
State officials organizing a new health insurance exchange are planning to ask for more federal grant funding to plug a projected $16.2 million shortfall.
The shortfall stemmed from an accounting error that caused state budget and fiscal analysts to misproject when the state would use up funding from a grant to partially launch a computer system for the exchange.
Oregon’s exchange, called Cover Oregon, is an online marketplace where individuals and small business owners can comparison shop for health insurance and apply for financial assistance.
Lane Solutions Responds…
We’re shocked! We just don’t believe it…a government program short $16 Million because of an “accounting error”? Has this ever happened before? Surely not for the Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”), of which Cover Oregon is a part!
What’s that, Dear Readers? You say that it has? That the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan for “uninsurables” – people with serious illnesses like cancer – has nearly run through a cool $5 Billion and needs big bucks from the states?
That Obamacare itself, originally set to cost $898 Billion over 10 years, is now projected to ring up $1.85 Trillion in costs?
But there’s no need to worry…because the government can always reach into your wallet to make up for its shortfalls, cost overruns or just plain ol’ “accounting errors.”