The embattled director of Oregon’s Obamacare exchange has officially resigned after a month of medical leave from overseeing the state’s flailing marketplace.
Rocky King has been on medical leave since Dec. 2, announcing his decision just before a board meeting evaluating his performance at Cover Oregon. King cited an undisclosed medical condition, which has reportedly cost him significant time away from work during the past two years while building Cover Oregon.
“As you know, this was not an easy decision for me. However, with the uncertainty of my health it is the most logical,” King wrote to Cover Oregon board chair Liz Baxter.
King’s resignation will take full effect at the end of his medical leave on Mar. 5. Interim director Bruce Goldberg, who runs the Oregon Health Authority, has been working to bring the botched exchange up to speed.
While King was among the first Obamacare exchange officials to take leave from his position, he’s one of many that have chosen to resign. Carolyn Lawson, the Oregon Health Authority chief information officer who oversaw the exchange’s development, resigned in mid-December. (RELATED: Healthcare officials across the country resign as Obamacare registration deadline looms)
One of Lawson’s most controversial decisions was not to hire a private-sector systems integrator against the advice of three state consultants, opting instead to have the state manage the exchange project. Since taking over leadership, Goldberg has acknowledged the move as a key mistake.
Nationally, King is the fourth state exchange director to resign. The directors of Minnesota’s and Maryland’s Obamacare exchanges both resigned in December after receiving criticism for taking extended tropical vacations while both exchanges were experiencing technical failures.
Hawaii’s director resigned in November after experiencing problems similar to Cover Oregon’s. The exchange delayed its launch for two weeks in October and was able to enroll just 257 customers in its first month.
Like Hawaii, Cover Oregon also put off its official launch in October, but has been unable so far to provide online enrollment. The exchange has become infamous for its technical glitches and for simultaneously providing splashy, expensive commercials featuring Oregon-themed folks songs praising Obamacare.
The ad campaign was put on hold in December by interim director Bruce Goldberg in mid-December after spending $8.3 million on the radio, television and billboard ads. (RELATED: Oregon Obamacare exchange pulls expensive hipster ads)
Halfway through Obamacare’s open enrollment period, Oregon’s exchange still does not yet support online enrollment — customers can views plans online, but must revert to paper aplications to actually enroll in insurance.
Before taking leave, King oversaw a shift to manually enrolling customers with paper applications after abandoning hope that the website’s online enrollment features would be completed by the deadline for January 1 coverage. The exchange spent $4 million in December alone on 400 extra temporary workers to process thousands of applications.
To date, officials have manually enrolled 12,000 consumers in private plans and 24,000 in the states Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan. Another 100,000 Oregonians have been enrolled in Oregon Health Plan through a fast-track process where health department officials send forms to pre-screened customers.
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