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Cover Oregon director resigns as critical report released

The embattled director of Cover Oregon resigned as a state-ordered report on the troubled health care website was released.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced he has accepted Dr. Bruce Goldberg's resignation when he released the report, which documented numerous management and other problems with the website, which is still not allowing anyone to sign up for health care online.

Goldberg also resigned his position as head of the Oregon Health Authority, the state health agency that was involved in the creation and launch of the problematic website.

"Oregonians deserve accountability for the public investment made in this technology,” Kitzhaber said. “It is critical that we learn from this project and adopt whatever changes are necessary to improve project management and safeguard public investments.”

The 77-page report was posted Thursday, March 20, on the state Department of Administrative Services’ website, www.oregon.gov/DAS/Pages/coreview.aspx.

Kitzhaber ordered the independent third-party review of the Health Insurance Exchange Website Project, known as Cover Oregon, in December. It was conducted by First Data, a company with experience with functional exchange websites in other states, and involved interviews with 67 stakeholders and the review of more than 3,200 documents.

Among other things, the report documented poor relations between the Oregon Health Authority and Cover Oregon, substandard work by Oracle, the $37 billion Redwood Shores, Calif., tech giant hired to build the website, and a lack of response to warnings about problems with the website before it launched.

When the report was released, the governor's office noted a series of development intended to reduce the problems and restore public confidence in the system. They are:

New legislation — Kitzhaber has signed into law House Bills 4122 and 4154 and Senate Bill 1582. The bills were passed by the Legislature in February to increase the accountability, oversight and transparency of state technology investments; strengthen oversight of Cover Oregon; and seek additional assistance for those who have had problems enrolling in health care coverage.

IT project inventory and analysis and procurement processes — Earlier this year, the governor told the state Department of Administrative Services to inventory all IT projects underway in the executive branch. The inventory is the first step toward tracking IT-related investments and activities through a statewide portfolio. IT projects across all state agencies will be evaluated and monitored to help identify and resolve issues and improve communication and coordination. In addition, the governor directed DAS to undertake a thorough review of the procurement processes used by OHA and to ensure that they meet best practice standards.

Delegation outreach — Kitzhaber has written to U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley requesting that the review by the Government Accountability Office include a thorough appraisal of Oracle’s inability to properly estimate the amount of work necessary to complete the project, to deliver on key deadlines, and to adhere to industry standards. He also asked that the different risk status ratings of the project reported internally and externally be reviewed.

Legal review — Kitzhaber has met with Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who will forward the First Data report and additional information to her staff and outside counsel. They are considering a range of legal options for protecting the state’s investment to date and evaluating the work performed by Oracle and our other technology vendors under contracts with the state.

Technology consultation — Kitzhaber has convened a team of information technology experts to advise Cover Oregon on IT options going forward. The team includes the chief information officers of Legacy Health, Pacific Source, Kaiser Permanente, Providence, Moda, Bridgespan/Regence and Oregon’s chief information officer.

Staffing changes and board assessment — Goldberg will continue as acting director of Cover Oregon until the new executive director is hired. Dr. George Brown, president and chief executive officer of Legacy Health, and a Cover Oregon board member, is overseeing the search process for the new executive director.

Despite the ongoing problems, more than 157,000 Oregonians have received insurance coverage through the exchange, more than 49,500 of them in commercial plans. Combined with the state's fast track enrollment process, more than 287,000 Oregonians have enrolled in affordable health plans since January.