Oregon is now the first state to completely replace its health insurance exchange by switching to the federal version.
Oregon's exchange has been plagued with technical problems and consumers still cannot enroll in one sitting, despite receiving millions of federal dollars to jump-start building the site. Fixing the existing system would cost about $78 million, whereas switching to the HealthCare.gov website would cost between $4 million and $6 million, the Associated Press reported.
Cover Oregon's board of directors voted Friday on the decision, which will take effect by the next enrollment period starting in November. The shift involves dropping the system built by vendor Oracle. But Oracle will still run the state's Medicaid enrollment.
Before the directors' vote, Cover Oregon's top technology official, Alex Pettit, publicly recommended the state switch to the federal marketplace. "Using the federal technology represents the lowest-risk option," he said, according to The Washington Post.
"I think their recommendation to use the federal website technology is the right call," Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) said in a statement sent to the AP. "It is the most reliable and least costly way to ensure that Oregonians have a working website by this fall."
However, all problems aren't fixed by adopting the federal exchange system. For example, 70,000 people who applied for individual coverage may have to go through the entire process all over again. Plus, five of the 16 insurers selling plans on Cover Oregon will have to incorporate a new computer interface that works with the federal exchange, reported Kaiser Health News.
Oregon isn't the only state making dramatic changes to its exchange website. Maryland decided to adopt Connecticut's technology platform, which has been one of the most successful exchanges in the country.