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Q&A: Gov. Releases Report On Cover Oregon Problems

OPB | March 20, 2014 3:41 p.m. | Updated: March 27, 2014 10:38 a.m. | Portland

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GK: So in January, after it became clear the Cover Oregon website had problems, Kitzhaber asked the company First Data to look into what happened. What did they find?

KFV: Well, the report addressed seven basic questions.

I won’t get into all of them, but are things like:  Who was in a position to make final decisions about the website?  Was there a plan B if things went wrong? And when did the website team begin to realize it wasn’t going to be ready for the October 1st roll-out?

One of its main findings was that there was no single point of authority for the project. And since there were several organizations involved, from Cover Oregon to the Oregon Health Authority and Oracle, conflict and competing priorities got in the way.

The report said communications were contentious at times and ineffective.

GK: I see. Well, did the report find out who was in a position to make the main decisions?

KFV: Yes. Cover Oregon had an executive steering committee, comprised of health care expert Rocky King, technology professional Carolyn Lawson and long-time government health chief, Bruce Goldberg.

King and Lawson have both resigned and we learned today that the governor has accepted the resignation of Goldberg from the Oregon Health Authority.

He’ll remain as the interim director of Cover Oregon, but there’s an active search for a new director.

Governor Kitzhaber has also asked the Cover Oregon board to change its top technology and operational leadership, and to do a full assessment of its structure and staffing.
He’s also asked Oregon’s attorney general to consider the full range of legal avenues for protecting the state and evaluating the work performed by Oracle and other technology vendors.

Oracle is the company Cover Oregon used to build the site.

Here’s what Kitzhaber said today:

“I am angry and I am disappointed by the roll-out of Cover Oregon and the on-going technical problems that have created delays, uncertainty, confusion an frustration among Oregonians who need and deserve health care,” — John Kitzhaber.

GK: Was there anything else interesting in the report?

KFV: Well, it looks like there was a pretty good search for the right vendor before Oracle was chosen.

But the company told the state that only about 5 percent of it’s software would need custom configuration. In the end, it was more like 40 percent.

Also Oracle specified that bills were to be paid on time and not tied to the completion of services.

First Data said this approach departs from best practices and provided little financial accountability.

GK: And what did Oracle have to say about the report?

KFV: Well, I sent them a copy and e-mailed Govenor Kitzhaber’s press release. But I didn’t hear back.

It’s worth pointing out that First Data interviewed 67 people for the report but a number of Oracle employees and contractors did not make themselves available.

That said, the report states Oracle blames website problems on weakness within the Oregon Health Authority and Cover Oregon. The report also says Oracle blames a lack of well defined requirements, no system integrator and few timely website tests.

GK: So what happens next?

KFV: Well the federal Government Accountability Office has its own study into Cover Oregon and other state health care websites.  So we’ll wait for that to come out.

But it’s worth pointing out that the website is a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

And Oregon has enrolled about 287,000 people in health insurance since January 1.

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