Cover Oregon questions

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board February 26, 2014 08:54 am

We don’t mean to damn with faint praise by saying that Congressman Greg Walden’s call for a federal investigation in the Cover Oregon fiasco is an obvious political ploy.

Sometimes — and this is such a case — the obvious political ploy also happens to be necessary public policy.

And since the rest of Oregon’s congressional delegation hasn’t seemed eager to try to marshal the considerable resources of the Government Accounting Office (GAO), it was left to Walden, the only Republican among that group, to act.

We hope the GAO, which is the federal government’s watchdog, accepts the request that Walden and three other members of Congress made in a Feb. 12 letter.

“There are allegations of fraud and misrepresentation,” Walden said. “We need answers.”

Allegations aside, the uncontested facts in the Cover Oregon saga alone warrant a GAO investigation.

The feds gave Oregon more than $300 million to create Cover Oregon, a health insurance exchange operating under the auspices of Obamacare. That includes $226.4 million in January 2013 ostensibly for the website.

Yet not only did Cover Oregon fail to have the website running as intended when the exchange launched Oct. 1, as recently as last week only an estimated 700 people had enrolled for insurance online.

The website failure contributed to Oregonians going without insurance while they waited for their paper applications to be processed.

This is no witch hunt.

In fact Walden’s request to the GAO centers on a relatively simple question: Did taxpayers get their money’s worth with their investment in Cover Oregon?

The simple answer is “no.”

What we expect from the GAO is a rather more detailed report that explains how much of that money was in effect wasted, why it happened, and who’s responsible.