Oracle claims it has proof Cover Oregon website worked

Oracle claims it has proof Cover Oregon website worked »Play Video

DURHAM, Ore. -- Insurance agent Lisa Lettenmaier remembers Feb. 18 like it was yesterday. It was the day the troubled health insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, unveiled a partial or "soft" launch, 141 days after it was supposed to go live.

"I was excited!" said Lettenmaier, who owns the health insurance brokerage Health Source NW in Tigard.

On that day insurance agents like Lettenmaier, and other consumer-assistance workers got full access to an upgraded password-protected beta website, known as the partner portal. Cover Oregon promised they could help Oregonians sign up for health care, complete an application, receive detailed eligibility information, shop for plans and enroll clients all in one session.

Cover Oregon also sent an email to agents that described the online portal.

It was a system that promised same-day enrollment as originally planned for last October.

"If it was a clean, single person, single income (application), it went through," Lettenmaier said.

Insurance agents took direction, among other places, from a Cover Oregon-created webinar that walked agents through the process of navigating eligibility, shopping for a plan and enrolling clients.

Software vendor, Oracle, argues that's proof the Cover Oregon website worked. It's a story the On Your Side Investigators first revealed Sunday.

Oracle provided information last week to the U.S. House and Energy Committee claiming the website was operational in February but that the state of Oregon pulled the plug on it for political reasons.  

"Oracle has been ready to release the website for public enrollment since February 2014, and urged Cover Oregon to do so, but Cover Oregon would not permit it," the presentation stated.

The On Your Side Investigators obtained a copy of the Power Point presentation, which alleges the state deliberately distorted the case for abandoning the Cover Oregon website in favor of transitioning to the federal exchange.

Oracle's presentation stated that it "created Test Case Recordings as part of its project closure process. These recordings show the successful completion of enrollment for several dozen test scenarios, from each of three paths: individual, Community Partners & Agents, and Customer Service Representatives. The recorded scenarios are based on the same code baseline as was available for release in February."

KATU requested Oracle's Test Case Recordings for further review.

Oracle's presentation does not specify who in state government officially pulled the plug on the Cover Oregon website but speculates its functionality was kept from the public for political gain.

"Oracle is involved in a dozen exchanges," the presentation continued. "Oracle technology runs mission critical systems globally. Nowhere around the world does Oracle have issues with the customer like we face in Oregon."

However, Lettenmaier insisted, for any complicated applications, the process was still clunky, triggered error messages, and caused delays for several of her clients.

"Maybe one-third of my files went through without a hitch; The other two-thirds, something stopped," she said. "If you were two people or more ... if you put in that you currently had coverage but it was ending on a specific date, the system should have been able to read that and say 'great, you'll need coverage from this point forward' (but) it couldn't. It would glom it up and stop it right there."

Cover Oregon's webinar did address error messages stating, "Not every applicant will continue enrollment in one go" because of complex cases, a lack of a fixed addresses and inputting errors.

For her part, Lettenmaier was not convinced the website was as ready as Oracle claimed.

"In my opinion, it would not have been something successful giving to the public," Lettenmaier said.

The Cover Oregon website was a state-run online marketplace where Oregonians could find and purchase health insurance, but it had arguably one of the worst rollouts in the country.

When it became clear that the troubled website jeopardized enrollment, Cover Oregon hired more than 400 temporary workers to process paper applications. The hires were a backup plan while Cover Oregon staff fixed the bugs in the website. But the subsequent switch to hand-processed paper forms has left an untold number of their applications in processing limbo.

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. The Cover Oregon Board has since decided to scrap Cover Oregon for federal exchange technology.

The state spent almost $250 million on the site, including costs to fix it, before Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced it would transition to the federal exchange.

Kitzhaber called for a lawsuit late last month.

"Oracle's failure is unacceptable to Oregonians who need and deserve access to quality health care and who have been faced with months of uncertainty," Kitzhaber testified before an Oregon legislative committee. "The failed rollout of Cover Oregon has cast a shadow on these reform efforts, the success of which are absolutely crucial to the future of this state. So the time has come to hold Oracle accountable for failing to deliver technology that worked on the timelines that they agreed to."

So how does Cover Oregon explain Oracle's claims they abandoned the project that seemed to have been performing reasonably well?

The On Your Side Investigators contacted Cover Oregon several times Monday, including stopping by the Cover Oregon headquarters in Durham.

They were told interim Executive Director Clyde Hamstreet was unavailable, but he sent On Your Side Investigator Chelsea Kopta the following email statement:

"Our firm's work at Cover Oregon began on April 10th and I am unable to comment on events prior to that time. What I can say is that my firm after a thorough and sufficient review of the risk, cost, time available and other business implications, recommend Cover Oregon adopt the IT Committee's recommendation to use the federal technology. It is was a sound decision at the time and one that I continue to stand by."

The On Your Side Investigators also contacted Cover Oregon's interim chief information officer, Alex Pettit; every member of the Cover Oregon board, as well as several other insurance agents for comment. Calls and emails were not immediately returned.

Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: