Editorial: Cover Oregon debacle gets worse

The state of Oregon is in a nasty legal fight with Oracle, with multiple lawsuits filed and expensive lawyers at work. But Oregon still needs help from Oracle to proceed with health insurance sign-ups for this fall.

Could this debacle possibly get worse?

When Cover Oregon decided to use the federal website for this fall’s health insurance sign-ups, it didn’t dump its own failed website entirely. It decided to revamp it to serve those in the Oregon Health Plan, which is the state’s version of Medicaid.

The state signed an $18.4 million contract with Deloitte Consulting, $17 million of which was to rework the Oracle-built site for that purpose. Trouble is, the state still needs at least two actions from Oracle to make Deloitte’s work possible. The state needs Oracle to grant access to a key server that controls needed programming code, and it needs Oracle to take steps to make software and technology testing possible.

The Oregonian’s Nick Budnick, who reported this latest roadblock Wednesday, said the Medicaid portion made up more than two-thirds of the sign-ups in the first open enrollment. And if Oracle doesn’t cooperate by Sept. 5, Budnick says the state may have to handle this fall’s Medicaid sign-ups using the inefficient and expensive manual method it used last fall.

That method, meanwhile, apparently put more than 2,000 people in the wrong categories for this year’s coverage, with 1,400 placed in the Oregon Health Plan who don’t qualify, and another 700 put in private plans even though they did qualify for the Oregon Health Plan. Those people all need to re-enroll immediately, with attendant complications and possible additional costs.

Cover Oregon has spent millions of taxpayer dollars while hiding the full truth from the public. They knew the site was troubled before its launch, but they told us it would work. Then they said it would be fixed by numerous deadlines that passed without success. Leaders were fired, but then stayed on the job for months or received financial settlements. The nonfunctioning site was dumped except for managing Oregon Health Plan sign-ups, but then that task turned out to involve two-thirds of the sign-ups.

Could this debacle possibly get worse? Sadly, its history suggests yes.