Cover Oregon executive director Rocky King speaks out

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013

INTERVIEW BY AMANDA WALDROUPE

1013 FOB RockyKing
Rocky King, executive director of Cover Oregon.
// Photo by Adam Wickham

Howard “Rocky” King is the executive director of Cover Oregon, Oregon’s health insurance exchange. Starting January 1, 2014, Cover Oregon will allow uninsured individuals and small businesses to choose a variety of health plans via an online enrollment program. The hope is that increased competition and availability of federal tax credits will make health insurance more affordable, both for small employers and their employees. King and his staff have been working around the clock to prepare for open enrollment, which begins October 1. Cover Oregon expects approximately 50,000 people to enroll through small businesses by January.

When Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed King to be Cover Oregon’s first executive director, no one was surprised. King has worked in insurance and health policy his entire life, including as administrator of the Office of Private Health Partnerships and the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool. Gregarious and light-hearted, he is always quick with a joke or story in conversation. But when it comes to health care policy, he is passionate and dedicated.

The lowdown. “We’re going to provide an opportunity that includes a variety of options for the employer and especially for their employees. If they’re providing health insurance, it’s because employers want to retain employees, they want to make employees more productive or they want to recruit more people.”

More choice, less hassle. “Right now, in the small-employer market, you’re not given a choice between different plans or different carriers. They all have to go to the same plan. [The exchange] gives employers an opportunity to offer employees more choices. With the exchange, you could have [different employees] going to Kaiser or Health Net or Providence. So the exchange benefits the business. It helps attract and keep good people. And the worst thing [employers tell us about] is employee turnover. Secondly, the employer is going to get one bill. They’re not going to be billed by every carrier.”

Educating owners. “We’ve teamed up with various business associations to get information out to businesses. In September we presented in front of the Small Business Association. Business associations are applying for community grants we’re offering. We work really closely with Jan Meekcoms of the National Federation of Independent Business and Associated Oregon Industries. We’ve trained over 2,000 insurance agents so that we’ll be ready to start doing outreach to business owners.”

Enrolling online. “I think when everyone was dreaming about this, they were thinking it would be like buying a book on Amazon. But it’s more like doing Turbo Tax long form. There’s no way around the complexities associated with purchasing health insurance, determining eligibility based on income and the variety of choices people are going to have. In the smaller employer market, an employee is going to have 80 plan choices. That’s a very complicated process.”

Saving money. “Some businesses will save money through tax credits. Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees or nonprofits will be eligible to get a tax credit equaling 50% of their premium. Then you get into the concept of the exchange as a whole. In Oregon, we’re seeing a greater competition because of the number of carriers that are participating in the exchange. But in order to see out-of-pocket costs and premiums go down significantly, how we deliver health care has to change. The exchange brings in some competition, brings in some financial assistance, but it doesn’t drive new technology or care models that focus more on health and outcomes rather than episodic care and visits. The exchange is part of a support [system] to help us get there.”

Reinvigorating the market. “Small employers have been exiting the market to some degree because the cost increases have been more than what many of them can bear. If you’re faced with 15%, 20% or 25% increases year after year, you can’t afford the coverage. I want to make it a more stable market than it is today. Are there some small employers who, with this model, would come in? If we set up an exchange and it has 25% increases for the next five years, we haven’t done anything. We’re trying to figure out how we can impact the growth of health care costs. That’s the future of the exchange.”

 

More Articles

Change at the pump?

The Latest
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
001thumbBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that ban self serve gas stations. But these two holdouts may be ready to give up the game. New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. Oregon is considering smaller scale changes.


Read more...

Up in the Air

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON

Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.


Read more...

Photo Log: The 2015 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
greenthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Oregon Business celebrated the 100 Best Green Workplaces with an awards luncheon yesterday at the Nines Hotel in downtown Portland.


Read more...

The Backstory: Portland Youth Builders

The Latest
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
blog002 1BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

As part of our green workplaces story, Oregon Business checked out a community service project undertaken by Portland Youth Builders, a nonprofit alternative high school. In partnership with Whole Foods, PYB built garden boxes for a Home Forward  housing site. Home Forward is a government agency that provides housing for low income residents and people with disabilities.


Read more...

100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

As momentum grows at the state level to introduce far-reaching environmental regulations, such as carbon pricing and the Clean Fuels Program, Oregon employers continue to go the extra mile to create green workplaces for their employees.


Read more...

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...

Frothy Battle

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ROBERT MULLIN

Latest development in Nestlé plant saga sparks debate about the value of water.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS