By Tara Bannow

The Bulletin

The board that governs Oregon’s health insurance exchange voted unanimously this morning to move to the federal exchange following yesterday’s recommendation from its technology committee.

Cover Oregon officials say going the federal route will cost the state between $4 million and $6 million compared with $78 million to try to repair the embattled exchange in time for the start of 2015 open enrollment in November. Had they gone with that option, not all functionality would have been ready in time.

Alex Pettit, Cover Oregon’s interim chief information officer, said it’s unclear yet whether those who have already enrolled in private plans through the exchange will have to re-enroll through the federal exchange for coverage in 2015. There will need to be “some transfer of data” between Cover Oregon and the federal exchange in order to make the transition, he told reporters after the meeting.

Cover Oregon has spent $248 million in federal grants on the exchange, but Oregon remains the only state the country in which people can’t enroll online.

“Of course we’re very disappointed,” George Brown, Cover Oregon board member and CEO of Legacy Health System, told reporters after the board meeting. He went on to commend the “significant success” in getting Oregonians enrolled into health insurance despite the website’s problems.

Clyde Hamstreet, Cover Oregon’s interim executive director, said the exchange will need to lay off a portion of its workers as a result of moving to the federal exchange, but couldn’t say how many.

The Oregon Health Authority will take full control of determining eligibility and enrollment for the state’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan. The OHA will maintain a consumer website portal, application center and call center and will also maintain consumer outreach and education of the program.

“What we’ve always done we’ll continue to do,” Tina Edlund, OHA’s executive director and Cover Oregon board member, said at the meeting.

Edlund said OHA will be able to salvage much of the technology that’s already being used in OHP enrollment.

More than 242,000 Oregonians have enrolled in plans through Cover Oregon; roughly 70,000 of those enrolled in private plans and another more than 172,000 into OHP.