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Congressman calls for Cover Oregon investigation

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm •  Published: February 13, 2014

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Greg Walden and three congressional colleagues — all fellow Republicans— on Thursday requested a federal investigation of Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange, which has been unable to sign up a single person through its online portal because of technical problems that were known months before it was supposed to launch.

"The catastrophic breakdown of Cover Oregon is unacceptable, and taxpayers deserve accountability," Walden and the others wrote in a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Walden announced the request at a news conference in Medford, where he was joined by state Rep. Dennis Richardson, a Republican running for governor.

Walden is asking the Government Accountability Office to look into how the state spent $304 million in federal funds on the startup of Cover Oregon.

GAO spokesman Chuck Young said in an email it takes weeks to evaluate a request, and the office had made no decision yet.

Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox said in an email he had no comment.

Republicans have been stepping up their attacks on troubled health exchanges during this election year.

Walden, who heads the GOP committee to elect Republicans to the House, also asked investigators to look into whether an estimated $100 million of the federal money not yet spent can be recovered.

Other questions Walden and his congressional colleagues submitted to investigators include:

— What capability does the federal government have to reclaim those funds if Oregon abandons the state-run exchange and joins the federal one?

— What other costs has Oregon incurred because of the website's failure?

— Did Cover Oregon's status as a state organization play a role in its failure?

— What steps could federal agencies have taken to assure state and federal oversight of projects like this in the future.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, has acknowledged mistakes were made in Cover Oregon's launch but has denied having prior knowledge of problems that kept the website from launching on time.

Richardson disputed this, saying he included Kitzhaber on an email about problems in September 2012, and when he got no response, told him on the telephone. Richardson later followed up and thanked the governor for addressing his concerns.

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