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Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-303, Salem, Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us
Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett
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E-Newsletter 10/30/13

"Affordable" Care Act and "Cover Oregon"                

The October 1st debut of the Affordable Care Act has been nothing less than a disaster. In most states the system remains nonfunctional nearly a month after its introduction. As many as 100 million people who are seeking medical insurance have been turned away because the system simply does not work.

Millions are looking to the Affordable Care Act Exchanges as a market place to find health insurance to replace existing policies that have been cancelled by their insurance carriers pursuant to implementation of the Act. Millions more are looking to the Exchanges to replace policies that have been made obsolete or illegal under the complex provisions of ObamaCare.

Not only are the Exchange websites non-functional, but the federal employees hired to help navigate the complex system are ill prepared to answer important questions. Worse, many of these Exchange employees across the nation appear to have a “What me worry?” attitude. It appears that neither the President nor anyone in the Obama administration knows how to fix the system or even seem to be concerned that it’s broken.

Closer to home, nearly $60 million of federal tax-money was invested in order to make Oregon’s health insurance exchange website a poster child for ObamaCare efficiency. Oregon governors and their staffs have been studying the concept of government run health insurance marketplaces for more than a decade. That is a major reason why Oregon was selected to be a national leader in establishing the exchange websites.

In total, more $300 million of federal tax money was spent to get CoverOregon up and running. The Oregon Health Authority spent another $20 million to advertise its heralded October 1st “roll-out”.

Unfortunately, CoverOregon IS the poster child for ObamaCare!

The Exchange has yet to enroll its first customer since its October 1st opening. Oregon Health Authority managers insist that the system is not broken; however, they concede that it does not work. Further, after already moving to management Plan C without measurably improving performance, managers are unable to set a date when the system will work.

This is NOT just a failure of internet technology!

The plan to create a State of Oregon managed insurance marketplace includes eleven carriers for personal insurance, eight carriers for small business policies and ten dental insurance providers. The Exchange is also designed to provide direct access for families who qualify for publicly funded health insurance including Oregon Health Plan and Healthy Kids.

The complexity of the Oregon program is absurd. No functional program can have so many moving parts. As many as 1,700 insurance-eligibility governing rules are written into the software programs. This is nearly seven times as many as are found in several other states. In fact, many qualified insurance professionals believe that CoverOregon has too many complex deficiencies to ever work.

 The CoverOregon website’s on-line questions are confusing at best and often lead users in circles. One set of questions appear to be created by programmers who fail to understand even the difference between net and gross business income.

For instance, the Oregon system has no place to enter ordinary business expenses for self-employed taxpayers, according to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial excoriating CoverOregon. All business owners understand that business expenses must be subtracted from gross business income in order to establish net business income. Because the program provides no way to establish net business income, the taxable modified adjusted gross income, which consists of net business income less IRA contributions and certain other allowable deductions, cannot be established.

The system then requires the 2014 health insurance costs to be estimated by calculations based upon the modified adjusted gross income. However, there is no way to calculate and enter that figure on the site. These circular requirements create a dead end that prevents further progress.

 Moreover, state employees were hired to staff the CoverOregon websites to act as navigators for those who attempt to use the site. These navigators are often unable to answer basic questions regarding tax-credit eligibility, insurance costs, or even to describe how the basic-elements of available policies may apply. Their lack of preparation to discuss tax code and insurance options is embarrassing at best. The current program is wasting many callers’ time and causing them extreme frustration.

Governor Kitzhaber has acted as a national cheerleader for ObamaCare since its enactment in 2010. In fact, the national plan is closely aligned with his signature Oregon Health Plan. He has travelled extensively to Washington D.C. to help solicit the funding to create Oregon’s ObamaCare West.

Our Governor has used the federal funds that he successfully solicited to build the CoverOregon exchange and to leverage support for implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Oregon. For the past month, he has been uncharacteristically silent on the issue, virtually missing in action.

Governor Kitzhaber and other Democrat leaders sold the health care exchange to the public on the promise that government sponsored free market competition would improve access to health care and provide better services at reduced costs. However, equating the free market with a government managed monopoly is at best oxymoronic. It now appears obvious that the exchanges were created by folks who are not subject to those free market forces and may not even understand them.

Those of us who consistently voted in opposition to ObamaCare West endured a great deal of criticism. Business organizations, Chambers of Commerce, medical associations and constituents alike chastised me for not getting on board.

However, free market competition cannot exist when managed by government bureaucrats. Long experience has taught me to have no expectation of efficiency, cost savings, or better service from a government run monopoly enterprise. The countless hours I and my staff invested in studying and researching the Affordable Care Act provided no basis for changing that expectation.

I voted NO!

I rest my case.   

Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.

Best Regards,





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