New Cover Oregon director reins in spending

New Cover Oregon director reins in spending

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DURHAM, Ore. (AP) — A turnaround expert brought in to fix Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange is clamping down on spending and who can make financial decisions as he tries to get Cover Oregon back on track.

In his third day on the job, Clyde Hamstreet said Tuesday that he's still gathering information on finances and contracts and looking at whether the right people are in the right jobs. He'll eventually recommend a restructuring plan to Cover Oregon's board of directions.

"There are some good people here ... but there isn't the clarity about what they're supposed to do and how to do it," Hamstreet told The Associated Press in an interview at Cover Oregon's headquarters in Durham, outside Portland. "I think we can help make a difference on that."

Hamstreet said Cover Oregon has terminated a contract with Deloitte for advice on future technology options. Oregon's exchange has never had a fully functioning website and is currently evaluating whether to keep trying to fix its existing software or drop it and use the federal website instead.

The technology decision will be central to Cover Oregon's business model, Hamstreet said. He said he doesn't know what the recommendation will be. A Cover Oregon technology committee will bring a final recommendation to the board by the end of April.

Hamstreet said he's told staff he must personally approve any new contract, and he's limited who can approve large invoices.

Hamstreet is the founder of Hamstreet & Associates, a Portland company that specializes in restructuring struggling businesses. He's advised a number of companies through bankruptcy and restructuring of their finances, operations or management.

He describes the Cover Oregon situation as "a crisis in lack of confidence in technology and leadership."

"The agencies had a problem with making commitments that they were not able to keep," he said. "I want to avoid doing that."

Hamstreet took over executive director duties last week, after interim executive director Bruce Goldberg resigned. A search panel is expected to recommend a permanent director at the end of May.

If adopted by Cover Oregon's board, Hamstreet's restructuring recommendations would be implemented by the permanent director, he said.

Hamstreet said he took on the job at the request of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who said Cover Oregon had a "real issue" with organization, accountability and leadership.

"You don't just tell the governor of the state you live in, 'No, I'm busy,'" Hamstreet said.

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