$226M for insurance exchange — The federal government is giving Oregon $226 million to finish creating an online marketplace where people can shop for health insurance. The grant announced Thursday will help the health insurance exchange become fully operational. Cover Oregon, as the exchange is branded, will allow individuals and small businesses to compare health coverage options and access financial assistance under the federal health care overhaul. The grant will cover expenses until the exchange is self-sustaining in 2015, including testing, training and the creation of a user-friendly website. It also will help pay for staffing at a call center. Nearly all Americans will be required to have health insurance by next year. Every state is required to have an exchange so small businesses and uninsured individuals have a place to buy coverage.
Bus driver banned — The Canadian driver whose bus crashed on an icy Oregon highway last month, killing nine passengers, has been banned from operating a commercial vehicle in the United States. The U.S. Department of Transportation took the action Thursday, saying Haeng Kyu Hwang was driving too fast for the conditions and ignored federal limits on the amount of time he could spend behind the wheel. Police have not said what caused Oregon’s deadliest crash since 1971, and this is the first official investigation to conclude the driver was going too fast. The agency also banned a second bus driver who works for the same tour company. The order states the tour company was operating two motor coaches at the time. And witnesses said the second bus was also going too fast
Rethinking homeless center — The city of Ashland is rethinking its proposal to set up a day center for homeless people after no social service organization stepped forward to apply for $100,000 in city grants. Jackie Agee of the Salvation Army in Medford, which was expected to apply, said it would take at least $150,000 a year to run such a center, and the organization doesn’t have the money. The Ashland Daily Tidings reports city money would have been spread over two years to lease a building and pay expenses. The city asked organizations to consider offering a variety of services, from toilets, showers and laundry facilities to job-skills training and mental health and substance abuse counseling.
Student immunization deadline — Oregon parents have until Feb. 20 to make sure their children’s immunizations are up to date or they could be excluded from school. The shots are required by law. Schools keep records. Oregon Public Health says parents whose children still need shots will be getting a letter warning them of exclusion day.
— From wire reports