Fewer shiny, happy people: Cover Oregon pulls hipster ads

By   /   December 17, 2013  /   No Comments

END OF THE SONG: Those quirky Obamacare ads are being pulled as Oregon scrambles to get people enrolled in health insurance.

END OF THE SONG: Those quirky Obamacare ads are being pulled as Oregon scrambles to get people enrolled in health insurance.

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

It’s no secret the health exchange in Oregon has been a train wreck since it launched Oct. 1.

But there might be one bright light amid the darkness. You know those quirky, hipster ads with the “Live Long in Oregon” jingle you can’t get out of your head? They’re going away… for now.

Bruce Goldberg, acting executive director of Cover Oregon, said during a Monday press conference that the ads will be on hold while the agency focuses on getting people enrolled.

“We think it’s appropriate to hold off on any further advertising,” he said, noting the agency has pulled most of the ads while keeping some billboards.

Critics of the quirky, vague and expensive ads will likely rejoice. The ad campaign was originally slated for about $10 million, but then officials doubled it to $21 million in October.

Northwest Watchdog has requested information on how much money pulling the ads might save. Goldberg said Cover Oregon will readjust later to see what type of advertising is necessary.

As for the rest of it, well, it’s still a scramble to get things fixed at Cover Oregon, the website that was supposed to enroll Oregonians in health care coverage. It’s still not working, forcing the state to hire more than 400 additional workers to process paper applications.

Here’s the high (or maybe low) lights:

  • Cover Oregon is finally reporting enrollments, albeit via paper applications. To date, the agency has enrolled 7,500 Oregonians in private insurance and 13,374 in the Oregon Health Plan (for low income Oregonians).
  • 30,000 applications still need to be processed and about half of them have mistakes. The deadline for enrollment to get insurance by Jan. 1 has been pushed to Dec. 27. Goldberg said 100,000 Oregonians will have health care coverage by Jan. 1, most of them in the expanded Medicaid program.
  • The state is withholding about $20 million from the website contractor, Oracle. The state also might go after Oracle to pay for the more than 400 employees needed to fix the site.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for an independent review. Meanwhile, the Oregonian reports a slew of technology problems and mismanagement is to be blame for the snafus.

Several insurance companies have extended coverage that was going to be dropped at the end of the year.

Contact Shelby Sebens at [email protected]

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Shelby formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.