At times, Oregon under Governor John Kitzhaber has seemed like the prize pupil of the Obama administration. But recent events have plopped Oregon on the dunce chair.
Oregon may be dead last in enrolling zero people online for health insurance under its health exchange, Cover Oregon. And now the U.S. Department of Education is threatening to withdraw the state's waiver from complying with the No Child Left Behind education requirements.
Neither represents a policy divergence between Oregon's Democratic government and the Obama team. They reflect a bad poker hand.
Like the federal health care website, Oregon's electronic health insurance portal hasn't performed. Oregon has pushed to enroll people using paper applications. And the state has added significant numbers of Oregonians to the Oregon Health Plan.
Kitzhaber said the state is too far downstream to change computer consultants, but promises a full accounting when the Cover Oregon website is up and running as intended. The governor has enlisted former Providence CEO Greg Van Pelt and Oregon Health Authority Director Bruce Goldberg to lend their management and medical expertise to unsnarling the IT logjam.
Meanwhile, Oregon, which has an elite reputation as a forward-looking pioneer on health care transformation, has gotten embarrassing bad national press for its major flub on rolling out its health exchange.
The embarrassment is continuing with the Department of Education warning about withdrawal of the No Child Left Behind waiver. Oregon was among the first states to seek and receive a waiver from what state educators called suffocating requirements of the signature education reform proposal from the George W. Bush presidency. The catch is that Oregon agreed to bring together teachers and administrators on a far-reaching plan to bootstrap poor performing schools. That hasn't happened, at least to the satisfaction of federal education officials.