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Obamacare Debacle Continues in Oregon

Not only are authorities wrestling with problems relating to a website on which they've spent hundreds of millions of dollars, but heads are rolling in the IT department as the original manager of the program was fired and his replacement resigned for personal reasons."

Not one single Oregonian has signed up via the state's Covered Oregon website.

Oregonians have been forced to sign up for Obamacare the old fashioned way -- by filling out paper applications. That process has been so fraught with error that the state began robo-calling people who had signed up to give them a little Christmas cheer:

Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange began robocalling applicants Friday, warning them that if they don't receive enrollment confirmation by Monday, they should seek coverage elsewhere for Jan. 1.

"If you haven't heard from us by Dec. 23, it is unlikely your application will be processed for Jan. 1 insurance coverage," a woman's voice on the pre-recorded call from Cover Oregon says. "If you want to be sure you have insurance coverage starting Jan. 1, you have other options."

It's yet another sign that the health insurance exchange's technological breakdowns will prevent some -- perhaps many -- Oregonians from getting subsidized coverage Jan. 1, despite Gov. John Kitzhaber's previous assurances otherwise. Out of more than 65,000 applicants, the exchange reports enrolling nearly 30,000, but only about 11,000 of them in private insurance plans.

The calls also suggest the exchange's problems will prevent many of those individuals from receiving tax credits or subsidies in January, even though they qualify for them.

Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox said Friday he did not know how many recorded calls were being made. They targeted individuals whose eligibility for tax credits has not been determined, Cox said, including those with incorrect applications.

Once their applications are processed, Cover Oregon will notify them either by a phone call from a call center representative or a mailing, and they can enroll over the phone or online, Cox said.

The exchange will continue to process applications, except for on Christmas Day, to meet its Dec. 27 enrollment deadline for January coverage, he said. And applicants who get a call after Monday might still be able to enroll by year's end, he said.

But Cover Oregon decided to launch Friday's pre-recorded calls to address mounting concerns among applicants about possible gaps in coverage, he said.

"It's giving guidance to those folks who are nervous because they haven't heard form us and want and need coverage Jan. 1," Cox said. Cover Oregon also posted a "Roadmap to Coverage" guide online that details other enrollment options.

The recorded call tells applicants that they can get coverage directly from an insurance company or through an agent. But they won't qualify for tax credits. Cox said he did not know if Cover Oregon would compensate individuals for tax credits or subsidies they lose in January because of the exchange's shortcomings.

Oregon ranks dead last in Obamacare signups and the situation is not expected to improve for a month or more. Governor John Kitzhaber puts on the happy face and keeps issuing statements of encouragement, but the fact is, no citizens in his state are likely to have their insurance subsidized.

Ben Domench at Heartland Institute summed up the problem with the Oregon program:

“It’s just another indication that this model as a whole is a problem,” Ben Domenech, senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, told Northwest Watchdog. “No state has done more to try and be ahead of the curve on this type of approach to reworking our health care markets than Oregon. It is a reflection that this approach was always from the beginning an ill thought out and ill structured approach.”

That seems to be the problem nationwide with Obamacare: Too much wishful thinking and not enough hard-headed analysis. Whoever let Barack Obama run around the country telling people that the Obamacare website would work like Orbitz or some travel site should be fired and put in a padded cell. It was never going to be that easy and Oregonians are discovering that in the most painful way imaginable.