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GOP requests Oregon health exchange records

 Posted: 2:00 AM January 17, 2014

SALEM — The Republican National Committee said it has filed a public records request seeking information about Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange — a sign the GOP sees the Cover Oregon challenges as a chance to make gains.

In a letter dated Tuesday, the RNC requested information about compensation and vacation time for two senior officials: Cover Oregon director Rocky King and former Oregon Health Authority Chief Information Officer Carolyn Lawson. King is on leave from the agency and does not plan to return. Lawson has stepped down.

Republicans nationally are working hard to use problems with the health insurance exchange against Democrats in the 2014 campaign.

"Anyone who is associated with this epic debacle is potentially vulnerable," said Michael Short, a spokesman for the RNC. "It's even more acute in Oregon because the exchange, amazingly, was even worse than the federal one."

He said several Oregon officials were in political jeopardy over the exchange — Gov. John Kitzhaber, who aggressively pushed to create a state-based exchange in Oregon, along with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, who voted the federal health care law.

Republican state Reps. Dennis Richardson of Central Point, who is running against Kitzhaber, and Jason Conger of Bend, who is running against Merkley, have called for Cover Oregon to be shut down.

More than three months after it was supposed to launch, Cover Oregon's website still can't enroll anyone from start to finish. Using a backup process that requires workers to process applications by hand, the state has managed to enroll 65,000 people in health coverage, about 23,000 of them in private insurance and the rest in the Oregon Health Plan, the state's version of Medicaid.

Another 118,000 have enrolled in Medicaid through a separate process that bypasses the exchange.

Brad Martin, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon, called the Republican move a "press stunt." He said the health care law is providing coverage to thousands of people who didn't have it before and preventing insurance companies from spending too much money on administration.

"I don't think their strategy, rooting for failure, is going to work in Oregon," Martin said. "It's not the Oregon way."

Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox said the agency has not received the public records request. Short said it was sent through the U.S. Postal Service and may not have arrived yet.


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