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CAGW Names Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber May Porker of the Month

Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Gov. John Kitzhaber (D-Oregon) as its May Porker of the Month for the failure of the deeply flawed, severely dysfunctional Obamacare exchange, Cover Oregon. Gov. Kitzhaber, a vocal, early Obamacare cheerleader, claimed that the exchange would transform healthcare in Oregon, and would be “better than relying on the federal exchange.” After receiving more than $305 million in federal grants to perform feasibility studies as well as to build, test, and operate the exchange, the state’s plagued healthcare platform was scrapped on April 25, 2014.

Oregon, one of the first states to approve building its own exchange, joins a list of other disastrous state-run healthcare exchanges in Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada and Vermont. These seven states have reportedly invested $1.27 billion on their exchanges since October 1, 2014, while only collectively signing up 308,285 enrollees. To date, Cover Oregon has spent at least $160 million on its failed website, and managed to enroll 34,000 in private Obamacare insurance plans through paper applications only.

While Gov. Kitzhaber is clearly responsible for the actions of state workers and contractors, particularly on a project which he had lauded from the beginning, a March 20, 2014 assessment report of Cover Oregon that was requested by the governor passed the buck to both the state’s construction of the program and Oracle. The $228,000 “independent” review, which was based on interviews with 67 stakeholders and more than 3,200 documents, claimed that inconsistent, confusing, and misinterpreted communication with oversight authorities, as well as an “unrealistically high sense of optimism” regarding the October 1, 2013 launch date attributed to the massive failure of Cover Oregon. And the number one optimist was … Gov. Kitzhaber.

On February 12, 2014, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Oregon), and two other subcommittee chairmen sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office that called for an investigation to determine how federal funds were spent and whether the federal government provided adequate oversight. The letter stated that “the catastrophic breakdown of Cover Oregon is unacceptable and taxpayers deserve accountability” and noted that officials were aware of problems with the system in as early as November 2011. In the fall of 2012, the acting director of the Oregon Health Authority, Carolyn Lawson, said, “According to the feds, we’re easily nine months ahead of any other state. We have multiple states that are asking if they can participate with us.” Ms. Lawson, who was appointed by Gov. Kitzhaber, resigned earlier this year, along with several other individuals associated with the health authority. CAGW suggests that Gov. Kitzhaber (perhaps by using one of the many pens that Oregonians were forced to use when enrolling in Obamacare) sign his name on the dotted line at the top of the list of the blameworthy individuals.

For his willingness to play the blame game at the expense of federal and state taxpayers and try to cover up his role in Cover Oregon’s failure instead of taking full responsibility for the system’s collapse, CAGW names Gov. John Kitzhaber its May Porker of the Month.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government.

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