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Richardson calls for audit of Cover Oregon

Rep. Dennis Richardson has sunk his political teeth into Oregon's bungled rollout of a new health-care system.

The Central Point Republican, who hopes to challenge Gov. John Kitzhaber for his seat this November, has called for a federal audit of Cover Oregon. He and Congressman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, are expected to make an announcement on that issue Thursday.

Richardson, who said he would be critical of the governor even if he wasn't running for his office, has accused Kitzhaber of a cover-up over Cover Oregon, which is this state's version of the Affordable Care Act.

Almost 5,000 signatures have been collected on a petition by Richardson calling on the federal Government Accountability Office to audit Cover Oregon.

An early supporter of the health-care program, Richardson has charged the governor with lack of oversight and of wasting almost $200 million on Cover Oregon, which is still plagued with issues.

"The only response from the governor is to throw more money at the problem," he said.

Kitzhaber has made repeated public announcements that he is "accountable" for the failed rollout of Cover Oregon on Oct. 1. The principal culprit in that failure is a website that is still not working, which has forced the state to use forms instead.

The governor has called for a $228,000 audit to determine what happened, a step that Richardson says is merely an attempt to buy time and deflect the blame.

Oracle, the tech giant that has been working on software and hardware with the Oregon Health Authority, has 100 programmers working to get the website functioning by this weekend, though it will only be available initially to insurance agents.

Ian Greenfield, spokesman for the governor, said the Kitzhaber wouldn't speculate on any federal government audit prior to an official announcement.

Greenfield said despite the problems with Cover Oregon, the state has managed to sign up significant numbers of Oregonians under the plan.

"Cover Oregon deserves credit for the 102,352 enrolled through the exchange, which includes the 67,517 in the Oregon Health Plan and 34,835 in private insurance," Greenfield said in an email response.

— Damian Mann

Read more in Thursday's paper.