There's a bit of silver lining in the continuing woes of Cover Oregon, the state's health insurance exchange, whose online portal has worked so poorly that potential applicants are being urged to download and fill out a paper application instead.
The bright spot is that Cover Oregon officials say they're backing away from their advertising campaign - "Long Live Oregonians," indeed - after spending more than $8 million during 2013 for advertisements on radio, TV, newspapers and billboards. (The billboards likely will linger a little longer, because they've already been paid for. Of course, the billboards don't make much sense without the context provided by a broader media campaign, but what the heck.)
So no more faux hipster jingles to go along with brightly colored animated spots. No more singers trying to sound like Bob Dylan on mysterious radio spots. No more Cover Oregon sponsorships on injury timeouts during college football radio broadcasts, even though we thought that was sort of ironic: "Jim, there's another injured player who won't be able to enroll online for health insurance through Cover Oregon!"
We understand that the idea was to grab the attention of media-savvy young people, because those are the relatively healthy folks who need to sign up for health insurance so that this reform pencils out financially.
But those also are the same people who have little patience for technology that doesn't work. Are they going to be willing to fill out a paper enrollment form? Will they be willing to give Cover Oregon a second shot once the state finally irons out its technology issues? (And officials better be absolutely certain that site works like a charm when it gets rolled out again.)
These are important questions - and we'll start to see the answers next year. With any luck, some of those answers will start to come into focus at about the same time that legislators start to dig deep into this mess during their 2014 session.
In the meantime, with the advertising campaign over for the time being, Cover Oregon officials say they'll focus on enrolling those Oregonians who applied for coverage effective Jan. 1. That's the right decision.
But even that process has hit a bump: Last week, Cover Oregon started robocalling applicants to warn them that if they haven't received enrollment confirmation by Monday, Dec. 23, they should seek coverage elsewhere for Jan. 1.
"If you haven't heard from us by Dec. 23, it is unlikely your application will be processed for Jan. 1 insurance coverage," the prerecorded call says. "If you want to be sure you have insurance coverage starting Jan. 1, you have other options."
That sounds like a pretty harsh call to receive. If Cover Oregon officials need a little background music to ease the blow, we have some suggestions. (mm)