House backs bill targeting technology failures like Cover Oregon

House backs bill targeting technology failures like Cover Oregon
The homepage of Cover Oregon's website.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon House voted Monday to approve a measure that Democrats said would help prevent future technology debacles like the troubled rollout of Cover Oregon.
   
The bill would require an independent quality assurance contractor to be involved with some large technology projects.
   
Republicans objected, saying Cover Oregon had a quality assurance contractor that issued warnings that were ignored. Some questioned why reports from the outside quality experts wouldn't have to be provided to the Legislature.
   
The measure passed in a 40-18 vote, with seven Republicans joining all 33 Democrats in favor.
   
The bill is a message to the people who run state technology projects, said Rep. Nancy Nathanson, a Eugene Democrat and a chief sponsor: "We are watching, and we're making sure there are more eyes watching you than there were in the past."
   
Cover Oregon's online enrollment system wasn't ready to launch on schedule in October, making Oregon the only state that still doesn't have a way for people to sign up online for health insurance in one sitting. The state has hundreds of workers reviewing applications to determine whether applicants are eligible for tax credits or the Oregon Health Plan, the state's version of Medicaid for people with low incomes.
   
"What happened at Cover Oregon was that Maximus did its job," said Rep. Dennis Richardson, referring to the company the state hired for quality control. "There was oversight for that entire project. And the oversight and the reports were ignored by the agencies," said Richardson, a Central Point Republican who has made the Cover Oregon debacle a central piece of his campaign for governor.
   
A separate Cover Oregon bill, also pushed by Democrats, would require the agency to apply for waivers from the federal government giving people more time to get insurance coverage and qualify for tax credits - moves that officials at Cover Oregon and Gov. John Kitzhaber's office are already pursuing. That measure is awaiting action in the Legislature's budget committee.

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