House committee calls for criminal investigation into Oregon Obamacare fiasco
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is asking the Justice Department and the Oregon state attorney general's office to initiate a criminal investigation into the failure of the Obamacare exchange site, Cover Oregon.
More than $300 million was given to the state by the federal government that was ultimately wasted when the website never got off the ground.
Incompetence and pure politics were cited by the committee as reasons for the failure.
"More than $305 million in federal taxpayer dollars were sent to Oregon state for purposes of implementing a state exchange to benefit the people," the Republican-led committee said in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "The state exchange never came to fruition, and the money is gone."
The report also found there has been no effort from the Department for Health and Human Services to retrieve the lost funds.
The report said that state officials improperly commingled official and political resources to enrich Kitzhaber’s re-election bid.
Democrats on the committee released their own report, which laid the blame at the feet of Oracle Corporation, the state’s contractor, saying it misled officials and failed to deliver a functioning website. The Democrats' report also found that Oracle’s work was so flawed the state should stop payments to them.
Oregon had the country's worst rollout of the national health insurance program. While the crippled federal website eventually worked, Oregon failed to enroll a single person online. The state-supported platform eventually was abandoned for the federal HealthCare.gov.
Cover Oregon was dissolved in March 2015.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' "failed oversight of the development and implementation of Cover Oregon resulted in millions of wasted taxpayer dollars," the committee’s report said, calling for the reform of its grant and oversight process.
The report also found that state officials and Kitzhaber’s campaign staff collaborated to such an extent that the "lines between official and political activities became blurry.”
Kitzhaber resigned in February 2015 amid allegations his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, did private consulting work for organizations seeking to influence state policies. The report found that at least one email discussing Cover Oregon included Hayes, "who did not have any Cover Oregon role or responsibilities."
Actually, House Republicans let Oracle off too easily. Internal documents from the software giant reveal that they knew full well that the site was defective and hid that fact from the state.
But that's a matter between the state of Oregon and Oracle. What concerns Congress is the blatant misuse of resources by the governor to further his political campaign, and the shocking incompetence of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that not only failed in its oversight duties, but has also so far resisted going after the state to reimburse the American taxpayer.
In China, these officials would be executed. In many other countries, they'd go to jail. The state officials who wasted this money may eventually go to jail, but it's doubtful that anyone in the federal government will face prosecution. How many billions have been wasted on these exchanges already and who, ultimately, will be held responsible?
Welcome to Obama's Washington.