- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2015

A key House oversight panel is demanding that the Department of Health and Human Services turn over all documents related to the failed Cover Oregon health care information exchange, which was abandoned last year after the state spent an estimated $300 million of federal grant money to build it.

The June 15 letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform seeks all communication between employees for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) about the Oregon site, all documents related to the site’s functioning and a description of changes CMS made to its processes on grants and information technology related to federal and state Obamacare websites.

The letter, signed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican and the panel chairman, notes that despite Cover Oregon having cost hundreds of millions only to be scrapped and have the state’s Obamacare customers turned over to the federal HealthCare.gov site, CMS in February 2011 “identified Oregon as an ‘early innovator,’ one of only seven states granted large sums of federal dollars to design reusable IT systems in hopes of providing a state-based exchange model for other states to follow.”

“Oregon received five separate federal grant awards to build its health care exchange, totaling more than $300 million” before the state turned it over, reads the note sent directly to Andrew Slavitt, the HHS acting administrator.

The letter alleges that “questions about the use of federal funds to develop Cover Oregon remain” and that several media organizations have reported accusations that the exchange was shut down for political reasons.

The footnotes cite a May 18 front-page story in The Washington Times in which sources said that campaign operatives working for then-Gov. John Kitzhaber exerted their political influence over state-paid employees to shut down the exchange to help the governor avoid potential embarrassment in the upcoming election.

Mr. Kitzhaber ultimately won his bid for re-election but resigned only days after his new term began earlier this year amid unrelated criminal accusations, and Oregon is currently in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit with Oracle Corp., the company that helped build the site.

The House Oversight letter instructs that all requested material be delivered to the committee in the House Rayburn building no later than 5 p.m. on Monday.

The letter was also signed by Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules, and Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations.

No Democrats signed the note.

Email inquiries by The Washington Times to HHS press officials were not immediately returned.

• Jeffrey Scott Shapiro can be reached at jshapiro@washingtontimes.com.

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