"Silicon Forest": Oregon Has Enrolled a Whopping Zero People in Healthcare Exchange

Katie Pavlich

11/18/2013 2:00:00 PM - Katie Pavlich

It's been 49 days since the Obamacare exchanges launched on October 1. Last week, we learned just under 27,000 signed up for coverage through the federal exchange. An additional 79,000 signed up through state based exchanges. At that time, Oregon had signed up a total of zero people through its state based exchange and today, they've still signed up a total of zero people.

With all the problems facing the rollout of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, nowhere is the situation worse or more surprising than in Oregon, a progressive state that has enthusiastically embraced the federal law but has so far failed to enroll a single person in coverage through the state's insurance exchange.

Despite grand ambitions, an early start, millions of dollars from the federal government and a tech-savvy population, Oregon's online enrollment system still isn't ready more than a month after it was supposed to go live. The state has resorted to hiring or reassigning 400 people to process insurance applications by hand.

"We're all surprised and frustrated that we're in the position that we're in now," said Jesse O'Brien, a health care advocate at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, which lobbied for the exchange.

The silver lining? People have least filled out...paper applications.

The state has received about 18,000 paper applications, at 19 pages each, and is scrambling to manually file and clear them. State officials have not been able to say when they expect the online system to launch, nor have they established a deadline to submit paper applications in order for coverage to begin Jan. 1.

And the best part? Oregon's major city of Portland is known as the "Silicon Forest" because of the massive number of tech companies in the area. You know, kind of like Silicon Valley's little brother. You'd think someone in the state would know how to set up a healthcare website.