Breaking: Gov. Kitzhaber Announces Bruce Goldberg’s Resignation As OHA Director

Dr. Bruce Goldberg

Dr. Bruce Goldberg

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced today that Dr. Bruce Goldberg is resigning as director of the Oregon Health Authority.

Kitzhaber made the announcement during a morning press conference in Salem where he also released the much-anticipated findings of the independent audit of Cover Oregon by First Data.

He said Goldberg will continue as Cover Oregon’s acting director until a new executive director is chosen to lead the troubled insurance exchange.

Speaking in a tone that mixed anger, frustration and determination to move forward, Kitzhaber didn’t directly point to the reasons for Goldberg’s resignation, but he did say that Goldberg’s actions directly impacted Cover Oregon’s ability to successfully launch on October 1.

“Mistrust and tension between the administrators of the Oregon Health Authority and Cover Oregon increased the likelihood that it wouldn’t launch on time,” Kitzhaber said, referring to Goldberg and former director Rocky King, who resigned on Jan. 1.

When Kitzhaber was asked whether Goldberg was asked to resign, he said: “Bruce offered his resignation. I accepted it. I think it was the right decision.”

In some ways, the decision must have been a difficult one for Kitzhaber.

The governor and Goldberg have known each other for years. They worked closely together to create Oregon’s coordinated care organizations (CCOs) and to convince the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to grant a waiver to Oregon allowing for the Medicaid reforms and to give Oregon $1.9 billion over five years to help jumpstart CCOs.

And when Rocky King resigned, it was Goldberg that Kitzhaber chose to lead Cover Oregon.  Goldberg got the exchange through most of the open enrollment period and created a hybridized online and paper application process that has enrolled more than 45,000 individuals in qualified health plans.

But while Goldberg’s ability to implement large-scale reforms earned him a reputation as an effective administrator and bureaucrat, that ability, along with a quick temper, also caused him to have a fair number of enemies in Oregon’s health circles. Many referred to him as “The Bruce” behind his back, an opaque reference to a stereotypical Scottish warrior chieftain.

Note: State of Reform will provide further updates on this story later today.