Oracle, Oregon officials once discussed faulty website technology as Healthcare.gov fix

Oregon has since scrapped its site, Cover Oregon, and will use the federal Obamacare site

On at least one occasion, technology behind Oregon's faulty health insurance website was discussed as a possible fix for problems that initially beset Healthcare.gov, the federal insurance exchange that underpins Obamacare.

"How is Oregon's exchange looking? Any possibility it could be the answer to an overhaul," Oracle executive Donna-Mae Shyduik asked in an Oct. 19 email, which was obtained this week by the Oregonian newspaper.

"I think it could be," answered then-Oregon Health Authority CIO Carolyn Lawson, according to the newspaper. "The core of the application, the rules engine, is solid. What we are seeing now are product integration issues. Should be settled in about a week."

Dubbed Cover Oregon, the site was supposed to go live Oct. 1 along with Healthcare.gov but was beset by rampant performance problems.

Despite Lawson's rosy prediction, Cover Oregon still isn't fully functional and the state has decided to scrap its site in favor of Healthcare.gov, which has been stable for months, although Accenture recently landed a US$121 million contract to fix some remaining issues.

Cover Oregon's woes have created a political firestorm that led to the departure of key officials, including Lawson, who has accused the state of engaging in a "substantial cover-up" meant to shift blame away from itself and onto her and Oracle.

Other emails obtained by the Oregonian paint a more nuanced picture of the relationship between Oracle and Cover Oregon officials, particularly Lawson.

In an Oct. 14 email, she complained to a co-worker about an Oracle executive who was "working very hard to 'manage my expectations' but not working to deliver what is needed," according to the newspaper.

Lawson couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined comment.

Independent reviews of the Cover Oregon project have found fault with both Oracle and the state.

Oregon has withheld millions of dollars in payments from Oracle and is reserving its right to sue. But Oracle recently gave a public indication that it wants to avoid a messy legal entanglement.

"Oracle looks forward to providing any assistance the State needs in moving parts of Oregon's health care exchange to the Federal system if it ultimately decides to do so," Hellinger said in a previous statement. "Oracle will continue to support the State in providing long term solutions for Oregonians, and to assist with its ongoing health care modernization efforts."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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