Wyden: 'Don't prejudge' Cover Oregon investigation

BEAVERTON, Ore. - Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is trying to stay out of the Cover Oregon fray while an independent investigation is underway to determine what led to the failure of the state's health care exchange website.

KATU News caught up with Sen. Wyden Monday night at a Town Hall meeting.

Wyden believes the state needs to figure out how to right the wrongs that have gone on with the project's mismanagement since it was a state decision to not use the federal Health Care Exchange.

"Obviously this has to be fixed and it seems to me all the state officials have acknowledged it," said Wyden.

Depending on who you ask, Cover Oregon is either achieving its purpose: making health care available to all; or it's a huge black eye on the state. What can't be disputed: the website, the project's star, doesn't work and millions of taxpayer dollars have funded that failure.

Wyden said he doesn't want the results of an independent investigation Gov. John Kitzhaber ordered in November 2013, which got underway earlier this month, to speak for themselves.

"The state is looking at the role of the company, the Oracle company, the various consultants, I think that's the point of the investigationThe point of an investigation is to not prejudge it and to make sure that you're fairly looking at all of the issues," explained Wyden.

The senator wouldn't say if he would intervene if the independent investigation shows that millions of federal taxpayer dollars have been misspent on the project.

"When you have an investigation you don't prejudge it, you let the facts come out and the chips fall where they do," he said.

While Oregonians wait for the outcome, state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Dist. 4, Central Point) and Rep. Jason Conger (R-Dist 54, Bend) want different action. They're calling on the governor to ditch Cover Oregon altogether. Richardson is running for governor. Conger is running for United States Senate.

Wyden said he would help Oregon switch to the federal Health Care Exchange if state officials come to him for help in the future.

"Certainly. I'll be interested in any state recommendation," said Wyden.

For now, the state is staying its course with Cover Oregon. Dr. Bruce Goldberg, the project's executive director, told a legislative committee last week progress is being made to fix the website. But, he also claimed the state could eventually scrap it.

Sen. Wyden told KATU News he plans to follow the state's progress with Cover Oregon.

He also said he's working with other federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on a way to make it easy for employers with 50 or more employees to sign up to provide health insurance for those employees. That part of the Affordable Care Act goes into effect in 2015.