PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Congressional panel investigating Cover Oregon has asked departing Gov. John Kitzhaber to preserve all documents related to the shutdown of the dysfunctional health insurance exchange.
A letter submitted Friday by four members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asks for a slew of documents in hopes of understanding whether campaign advisers played a role in the decision to switch to the federal health insurance exchange.
The letter warns the governor's office not to alter or destroy any records — a reference to a Kitzhaber staffer's recent request to have the governor's personal emails deleted from the state archives. The request was denied.
"If it is the routine practice of any state employee or contractor to destroy or otherwise alter such records, halt that practice," the letter states.
Kitzhaber announced his resignation Friday amid a conflict-of-interest scandal involving his longtime girlfriend, Cylvia Hayes, and whether she used her access to power to advance her consulting business.
The Cover Oregon debacle has been a yearslong headache for Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor who prides himself on matters involving health care. The exchange website never fully launched, forcing the state to hire hundreds of workers to manually process applications.
The state finally scrapped the online portal in spring 2014 and switched to the federal site, HealthCare.gov. The decision came in the same year Kitzhaber was running for what would prove to be a successful re-election campaign. The U.S. House committee seeking the documents by Feb. 27 wants to know if the decision to abandon the Cover Oregon exchange — funded with $305 million in federal grants — was based on election-year politics.
The Republican-controlled committee seeks all communications from those associated with Cover Oregon, the re-election campaign and other contractors and consultants.
The committee has been investigating Cover Oregon since last March, when it requested thousands of documents to see if the private information of Oregon residents was placed in a vulnerable position.