Despite an ambitious agenda and millions spent on splashy ads promoting the health-care website, Cover Oregon failed to ever support online enrollment and the state rushed to hire a corporate disaster expert to fix the exchange before it rolls into HealthCare.gov next fall. (Meanwhile, that website’s apparently still got glitches of its own).
Clyde Hamstreet was hired in April to run the exchange with a $100,000 contract, but the cost has run up to $598,699 as of July, and Hamstreet’s still going.
Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who’s facing serious criticism on the exchange’s Obamacare flop ahead of running for reelection in November, fired several top officials and had Hamstreet hire two more employees from his corporate turn-around firm to help stop Cover Oregon’s collapse.
“We didn’t do this job to make a lot of money off the state,” Hamstreet said Thursday. “Our philosophy was to try and help get the boat righted and try to help clean things up and basically help the state…It turned out to be a bigger engagement than I expected.”
Hamstreet’s initial contract, which was expected to last just four to six weeks, was extended to five months and upped from $100,000 to $750,000. Cover Oregon’s crumbling atmosphere is part of the reason Hamstreet’s still there — the administration has had a difficult time even hiring another exchange director because it won’t be in operation for long, The Oregonian reports.
That’s been a recurring problem since the exchange decided to have the Obama administration take over operations with HealthCare.gov. The state was forced to dole out hefty bonuses to the exchange’s current employees just to get them to stick around until the federal government takes over next year. Hamstreet ordered 38 employees bonuses worth one to three months pay. (RELATED: Obamacare Employees Behind Failed Oregon Exchange Now Getting Cushy Bonuses)
“Many of the employees who voluntarily left Cover Oregon had key skills that are not easily replaced both in IT and in health care laws and regulations,” Hamstreet wrote to Cover Oregon’s board. “We cannot afford to keep losing valuable employees if we are to complete the workload for the remainder of 2014 and the IT transition project.”
Cover Oregon has spent over $250 million on its Obamacare exchange attempt so far.