Oregon is testing a modified version of Kentucky’s online Medicaid enrollment system and officials hope it will be ready for the public to use in early 2016.
That means Oregon might finally be able to automate its process to screen applicants for Medicaid eligibility and enroll them in the program, two of the functions that were supposed to be included in the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange portal. That system failed to launch in 2013, so the Oregon Health Authority has instead used an online PDF application to meet the federal requirement that states provide an online Medicaid application.
There are currently more than 1 million low-income Oregonians enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, which is the state’s Medicaid program. The state still employs hundreds of limited-duration staff to manually determine Medicaid applicants’ eligibility and enroll them in the program.
Although Kentucky provided its programming code to Oregon for free, state agencies in Oregon have budgeted approximately $62 million to adapt the program and implement it here, according to Stephanie Tripp, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Health Authority. The budget includes the cost of a contract with Deloitte Consulting, which is working with state employees to make adjustments to the Kentucky system. The state and consultant are testing Oregon’s version of the system and will also develop a training plan for state staff who will use the technology.
“We expect the system to become available to Oregonians who are applying for (the Oregon Health Plan) for the first time in early 2016,” Tripp wrote in an email. “However, for Oregonians who are current OHP members, they will be asked to renew their coverage through our current renewal process.”
Oregon is using the federal health insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov, for people seeking private insurance, and will continue to do so free of charge through 2016.
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which took over management of Oregon’s health insurance marketplace in July, was unable to provide an updated total cost for the Cover Oregon project by deadline this week. However, The Associated Press reported early this year that Oregon spent $300 million in federal money and at least $26 million in state funds to develop and market the Cover Oregon exchange. Most of the federal money went to tech company Oracle which built the exchange. Oregon also spent millions of dollars assessing whether it could salvage the Cover Oregon exchange, and had spent $9.1 million by the end of 2014 for hundreds of works to process paper health insurance applications, The Associated Press reported.
Since then, lawmakers approved a $30.5 million two-year budget for the Department of Consumer and Business Services to manage the exchange and a $2.3 million two-year budget to market and promote the insurance websites.
The state has continued to pay Oracle to use a portion of the Cover Oregon system to allow online Medicaid applications. That cost was unavailable, and it’s also unclear whether the state can stop paying Oracle after Oregon completes the transition to Kentucky’s system.
The state has spent at least $4.6 million on legal services, mostly to defend the state against lawsuits filed by Oracle and to pursue its own lawsuit against the company, according documents provided by the Oregon Department of Justice and Oregon House Republicans. Oregon has also incurred some of its legal bills responding to inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice.