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King leaves Cover Oregon after disastrous launch

(Image is Clickable Link) by: COURTESY OF COVER OREGON - Howard 'Rocky' King spoke at the Oct. 1 launch of the online health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, in Durham. Technical problems caused the exchange to flop, and King resigned his post this week, effective March 5.Cover Oregon Executive Director Howard “Rocky” King of Salem has resigned, leaving his job at the state insurance exchange that has been plagued by technical problems since its Oct. 1 launch.

King took medical leave of absence Dec. 3, turning the Cover Oregon program over to Dr. Bruce Goldberg, head of the Oregon Health Authority. King told the Cover Oregon board this week in a letter that he would resign effective March 5 his job with the $181,000 annual salary.

“As you know, this was not an easy decision for me,” King wrote in his resignation letter obtained by KOIN 6 News. “However, with the uncertainty of my health it is the most logical.”

Board Chairwoman Liz Baxter said the agency would appoint an interim director and begin a search for a permanent director.

Cover Oregon (www.coveroregon.com) in Durham is the online exchange that was supposed to help low- and middle-income Oregonians find affordable health insurance. Because of technical problems, the website failed to enroll people in insurance plans. Instead, the state has used paper applications.

As of Dec. 24, Cover Oregon had enrolled about 136,000 Oregonians in health insurance plans. Of those, about 36,000 enrolled through Cover Oregon: more than 12,000 in private plans and more than 24,000 in the Oregon Health Plan. The rest are being enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan through the fast-track option.

About 70,000 Oregonians are eligible for health coverage starting Jan. 1 through private plans or the Oregon Health Plan.

King has been at the center of the technical storm since October. His leave of absence was prompted by a medical condition, King told the board in early December.

Prior to his job with Cover Oregon, King has been administrator of the Office of Private Health Partnerships and the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool, two agencies created by the Legislature to help Oregonians access health insurance.

King was the second Cover Oregon official to resign. Carolyn Lawson, chief information officer for the Oregon Health Authority who oversaw most of the exchange’s development, resigned in mid-December.

Tribune reporter Kevin Harden and KOIN News 6 contributed to this news story.