Oregon health exchange director resigns after website problems

The man who led Oregon's problem-plagued health insurance exchange has submitted his resignation.

Rocky King has been on medical leave since Dec. 2. His resignation is effective at the end of his leave, March 5.

The news came in a letter sent by King to the board of Cover Oregon on Wednesday. The board wrote to the agency's staff on Thursday that it would begin looking for a permanent director.

King is the second official connected to the exchange to resign. He came under fire when the online enrollment system failed to go live in October. Technical problems with the exchange have been an embarrassment to the state and forced Oregonians to apply using paper applications. The state had to hire or reassign nearly 500 people to process applications by hand.

As of this week, the state's online exchange still hasn't launched. About 38,000 people had enrolled through Cover Oregon using the manual process, 14,000 in private plans and 24,000 through the Oregon Health Plan, the state's version of Medicaid.

King was previously the director of Oregon's high-risk insurance program that covered patients who were denied private insurance because of pre-existing conditions. He was selected for the Cover Oregon job in part for his relationships with the state's insurers. Before the website problems, Cover Oregon received high marks for recruiting a large number of insurance carriers, which sparked competition that led to lower prices.

Last month, King told reporters that he had struggled with his health for several years. He had said his return to Cover Oregon was dependent on his health. King's salary is $181,000 per year.

"As you know, this was not an easy decision for me," King wrote the board about his resignation. "However, with the uncertainty of my health it is the most logical."

Carolyn Lawson, chief information officer for the Oregon Health Authority who oversaw most of the exchange's development, resigned in mid-December.

Oregon Health Authority Director Bruce Goldberg remains Cover Oregon's acting director.