KATU investigation finds Oracle shares blame with Cover Oregon for website disaster

KATU investigation finds Oracle shares blame with Cover Oregon for website disaster »Play Video

DURHAM, Ore. -- No more playing nice.

Cover Oregon's main technology developer, Oracle, broke its silence this month about its relationship with Oregon and the state's disastrous health care exchange website. Emails surfaced showing Oracle brushed off any blame and pointed the finger squarely at Cover Oregon.

In a letter to Cover Oregon, Oracle's president, Safra Catz, said, "The state's current effort to deflect responsibility by claiming that Oracle failed to communicate the status of the project is demonstrably false."
Catz also insisted Oracle gave clear and repeated warnings the website would not be ready in time.

"Oracle's extensive documentation of this project supports the conclusion that OHA and Cover Oregon lacked the skills, knowledge or ability to be successful … on an undertaking of this scope and complexity," Catz wrote.

The Cover Oregon website is a state-run online marketplace where Oregonians can find and purchase health insurance, but it's had arguably one of the worst rollouts in the country. Despite a grand vision, an earlier start and millions of dollars from the government, the website has been in shambles since its Oct. 1 launch date. To this day -- just days away from the end of open enrollment -- the public still cannot enroll for health insurance in a single sitting online.

On Thursday, a Cover Oregon technology committee recommended that Cover Oregon be scrapped and transitioned to the federal marketplace instead. Oregon's chief information officer, Alex Pettit, said fixing the existing system would be too costly at an estimated $78 million, would take too long to implement and would be too risky. Pettit said switching to the federal system would cost $4 million to $6 million.
The On Your Side Investigators found Oracle gave false impression of success with Cover Oregon and in a very public way. On Oct. 2, 2013, one day after the exchange failed to go live, Oracle's official corporate twitter account crowed about the website: "Check out this article from @InformationWeek discussing Oregon's successful #HIX, built on #Oracle technology."

One month after the site failed to go live, Oracle VP Thomas Budner downplayed problems when the state was courting disaster.

"We are not at all happy with the fact that the schedule has slipped. This has visibility in our company," Budner said. "I think we have a, a very good handle of where the issues lay, and what we're trying to do is make sure that we do as comprehensive testing as possible to make sure other areas aren't impacted."

In addition, KATU uncovered documents citing Oracle's "atrocious" work, missed deadlines, and under-performance. About three weeks after Cover Oregon went live, the company's chief technology officer, Garrett Reynolds, emailed Cover Oregon's chief information officer, Aaron Karjala, regarding a damning review of Oracle work.
"The review shows that the Oracle development team's quality of the work was atrocious and that they broke every single development best practice that Oracle themselves have defined," Reynolds wrote. "It is one of the worst assessments I have performed in my 18 years of Siebel work."
State Information Technology oversight official, Ying Kwong, also aired his frustrations with Oracle, writing in an email on May 3, 2013, "I cannot interpret the information as presented by Oracle, and I would suggest that no one can."

KATU also obtained dozens of reports by Maximus, which was hired by the state as its quality assurance contractor. It repeatedly spelled out Oracle's failures and urged Cover Oregon to renegotiate the Oracle contract.

"The lack of reliable estimating by the Oracle teams, undiscovered development issues, and incomplete requirements by Cover Oregon will result in continued surprises to Cover Oregon," according to one Maximus report.

Another Maximus report stated, "Oracle's performance is lacking. Their inability to adhere to industry standards and professional software and project management tenants warrants further review," and, "The releases are not stable and fixes and features are appearing randomly in the releases. In addition, more items are *breaking then are being repaired. ... "

The On Your Side Investigators have contacted Oracle for months for a comment, to no avail. That changed Thursday, when a spokesperson provided its first email statement to On Your Side Investigator Chelsea Kopta. The statement is brief and does not touch on who's at fault for the website, only Thursday's big Cover Oregon announcement.

"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. Oracle will continue to support the State in providing long term solutions for Oregonians, and to assist with its ongoing health care modernization efforts," wrote Deborah Hellinger, Oracle's primary spokeswoman.

Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: