The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein said that Oregon’s version of the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) is “perhaps the worst disaster zone in Obamacare’s implementation”. Imagine my surprise seeing a new “Cover Oregon” commercial talking up the plan! This one ad, part of a new set of six, was released a week ago and a set of six Spanish ads were added one month ago. Thankfully the one I saw wasn’t like the annoying “Portlandia” style music videos they’ve been running since earlier in the year. No, this is actually worse; this one is a spectacle with questionable claims and flat out lies about how the system is working.
The now famous, freaky music videos were originally supposed to cost around $10M but ended up at $21M. Tech company, Oracle, was paid $43 million to get CoverOregon.org going. But Cover Oregon board executive Rocky King said that it might not be ready until after the March 31st deadline to enroll. On top of all of that money, Oregon has an insane $28 million budget for advertising. This has even angered liberals, causing Blue Oregon to question how much of that money, including the ad bucks, are going to be paid back by Oracle. The feds also gave Oregon $220M to start Cover Oregon but it has to pay for itself by 2015. (Yeah, good luck with that…)
State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point), who is running for governor, says last year, after reading progress reports from Cover Oregon, he warned Kitzhaber and other lawmakers that it wasn’t ready, but they pushed it anyway. He said, “Cover Oregon’s inadequacies were identified regularly and its catastrophic failure was fully anticipated. With proper leadership, planning and execution, Oregon’s expensive Obamacare disaster could have been avoided.” Gov. Kitzhaber was asked if maybe it was time to drop Oracle but he just pulled an Obama, “I don’t think so. I think there’s a serious question of accountability that we do have to address.” When he was asked about the fact that not one person has been enrolled on the site, he said, “I didn’t realize there were problems of this magnitude until they were pretty significant. So I will certainly own that.” There have been 400 temp workers hired to help process the paper applications the state is asking people to use. They’ve even thrown “application fairs” to try to sign up more people, but there’s still trouble.
There’s been security breeches, but seems the governor isn’t worried about that, either. “We have 30,000 applications that we are processing. Out of those there were three security breaches. Which is three too many. Friday we fundamentally changed that process,” he said (sorry if I balk a little about any “fundamental changes”, those two words used together bother me for some reason). To put it mildly, I don’t like Kitzhaber’s confidence in Oracle. They haven’t earned it, so why are they getting it? Yes, he’s brought in some others (hospital execs) to help oversee the process, but in my mind, you give a company $43M (and they’re $1.7M over budget) and they mess up…they’re out the door. In the middle of this insanity, Oregon has signed up over 70,000 people onto the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid).
“Cover Oregon: A New System” is the first new ad I saw. It opens to Oregonians saying that they were refused coverage due to pre-existing conditions (asthma and pregnancy). Next, a woman says she had two terrible accidents in one night and that the hospital refused to operate without a down payment (illegal if it’s a life or death injury). The next speaker is Anny (identified by her own video in the set, “Anny’s Story“), who says her family often flew back to their native Taiwan for medical care because it was cheaper to buy a round trip ticket across the ocean than to see a doctor here (Portland) without insurance. Honestly, I have no response for that one because I simply don’t believe it. She adds, “that’s not an uncommon story at all here in the API (Asian-Pacific Islander) community.”
This particular commercial winds down with a woman who says, “This system is going to work. Americans, our neighbors, our friends, our family depend on it.” Then, the words; “We’re Open, Apply Now” and the website appear on the screen. To be fair, I guess it kind of works. They have it set up for people to get paper applications with the warning to “postmark, fax or submit your application by December 4th”…IF you want coverage by January 1st, and if you need any federal assistance/subsidies.
One last thing, remember the early McDonald’s ads where there was a different ad for nearly every race? I think I was in Jr. High when we started noticing them and thinking it was bizarre. If you look up “Cover Oregon” on YouTube, you get the same thing, as if they were saying, “Let’s make sure we get every race.” I’d like to think we’re past that. As it stands, it’s hard to find anything good in Cover Oregon‘s website and advertising. For the sake of the families suffering from this mess, I hope they work something out soon.