Congressional committee: Kitzhaber administration tried to cover up Cover Oregon failures

Cover Oregon, the state’s failed Obamacare exchange has been a well documented disaster, but many are still asking who’s to blame and who’s covering up for the failure of Cover Oregon? Now Congress is requesting an investigation into the catastrophic and expensive failure that was Cover Oregon.


Republicans on the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a critical report this week about the committee’s year-long investigation into Cover Oregon. Among other things, it accuses former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and his team “of putting politics before helping thousands of Oregonians buy health insurance.”

“Our investigation shows Oregon state officials misused federal funds, and improperly commingled official and political resources for the purpose of enriching the political prospects of then-Oregon State Governor John Kitzhaber,” committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The committee sent letters to both the U.S. Attorney General and Oregon’s Attorney General “demanding that they start an independent criminal investigation into Oregon’s failed health insurance exchange.” In the report committee staffers show just “how badly Cover Oregon was managed and the steps the Kitzhaber administration took to cover it up.”

It also calls into question a presentation Cover Oregon officials gave to the Department of Health and Human Services, saying officials “falsified” what they showed the committee and that the “focus of that fake presentation was a dummy website designed to fool the feds.”


The exhaustive investigation included “more than 170,000 pages of documents from Oregon and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Oracle, the company that built the website. It also took testimony from five witnesses.”

The committee’s report included criticism of the secrecy of the Cover Oregon process. It “found that some members of Kitzhaber’s staff and advisers secretly managed the project after the website failed to launch in the fall of 2013.” The report includes never-before scene emails between former Governor Kitzhaber, campaign staff, and his state staff. The committee believes that these emails and other evidence illustrate that “Kitzhaber and his team broke the law in secretly managing Cover Oregon, because according to state law the state wasn’t supposed to control Cover Oregon. It was merely supposed to provide oversight.”

Included in the governor’s secrecy, Committee Chairman Jonathan Chaffetz, accused him and his staff of using personal instead of official email because, “they wanted to shield those communications from public records requests.”

Their report said “the governor’s office mixed campaign business and official business” and that his campaign re-election team tried to “change the narrative in the media” because it felt Kitzhaber was getting too much negative coverage because of the Cover Oregon scandal.

The Republican members of the committee found that Kitzhaber appeared to have “commingled” his campaign funds with state business.


Investigators found that as Cover Oregon was collapsing, the governor’s political operatives, not Cover Oregon board members, were maneuvering a move from the failing program to the federal ObamaCare exchange.

“The Governor’s campaign advisers staged the decision to create the appearance that it was the (Cover Oregon) Board’s decision to move to In fact, they manipulated the process to make their preferred outcome – moving to – the most likely outcome,” the committee wrote in its report.

According to the Republican committee’s report, Kitzhaber’s campaign consultants also “orchestrated a letter to Oregon Attorney (GeWSJ graphicneral) Ellen Rosenblum” to sue Oracle, which was the company that built the website.

Campaign staffers looked to push the blame away from Governor’s actions and onto Oracle, so as to shield Kitzhaber during his re-election bid.

All the committee’s evidence points to deliberate mismanagement of Cover Oregon by the Governor and his staff which eventually drove the state exchange to its epic failure. The committee estimated that this cost taxpayers $305 million in wasted money.

Also this week, several insurers also released proposed rate hikes for those insured through state exchanges.


This graphic from the WSJ report demonstrates that even “successful” exchanges that didn’t waste hundreds of millions before collapse aren’t offering affordable plans.

More proof Obamacare isn’t working.


Kristina Ribali is Senior Coalitions Director for the Foundation for Government Accountability.  Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on health care and welfare policy.

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