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3/6/2014
09:21 AM
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Oracle: Villain Or Scapegoat In Oregon Insurance Exchange Mess?

Even as Oregon works to exit a troubled IT services contract with Oracle, a longtime critic of the state's health insurance exchange project says the blame belongs elsewhere.

Cover Oregon still manually processes insurance applications. (Source: Cover Oregon.)
Cover Oregon still manually processes insurance applications. (Source: Cover Oregon.)

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jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
3/6/2014 | 12:16:13 PM
Re: First IBM, Now Oracle
With government and technology, blame is very rarely "either/or." Most of the time blame is spread around to all involved parties. Maybe not evenly spread, but everyone involved is accountable for success or failure.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 12:02:52 PM
Carolyn Lawson interview
Carolyn Lawson did give an interview to the Oregonian defending herself professionally.

Cover Oregon: Carolyn Lawson, departed IT director, says she's been unfairly scapegoated http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/02/cover_oregon_carolyn_lawson_de_1.html
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 10:21:57 AM
First IBM, Now Oracle
Seems like insurance exchange sites are fraught with problems. Let's not forget Minnesota's MNsure site, which tripped up IBM earlier this year. There, too, there's question as to whether the problem lies with the vendors or the state-agency managers guiding the project.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 10:18:27 AM
Re: Oracle blameless in Oregon health insurance exchange fiasco?
There is plenty of blame to go around to plenty of people and organizations, including Oracle. While it's easy to point fingers months later, from hundreds of miles away, it's infuriating to once again see taxpayers' money flung around with abandon and seemingly little oversight until it's way too late. As we've seen in many other cases of failed government implementations, it appears the goalposts kept moving. Both the implementer -- in this case Oracle -- and the executive overseeing the solution -- in this case Oregon's CIO -- should have been firmer in adhering to a strict definition of what the site would and would not do, at least in its first iteration. Adding features throughout the process only makes it impossible to succeed within budget and deadline. 

It makes no sense nowadays to ignore the availability of open source, commercial applications that get you at least halfway to your goal. Why do states or other government entities continue trying to reinvent the wheel? It's more expensive, takes way more time to create, and costs more to support. Using existing software, you save time and money, and also have add-on options, a wider talent pool, and lower development/support costs. 

If the Oregon CIO was, indeed, seeking an Oracle job that should surely go against existing ethics laws in the state. If not, I'd recommend Oregon add a law preventing executives from working for a company they were able to hire within a year (or longer) of leaving their government position. They could, perhaps, have workarounds but would have to prove they didn't talk jobs until long after the contract was signed, for example.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 10:11:17 AM
Re: Oracle blameless in Oregon health insurance exchange fiasco?
BTW, shortly after I filed this story, I did receive a brief note from Aaron Karjala, CIO of Cover Oregon, who said, "We are still actively partnered with Oracle to continue delivery of the exchange technology. We have begun a plan for an orderly transition to the next phase of the project, and are actively working on the long range plan for Cover Oregon technology."

The question is whether Oracle will be part of that "next phase," or how big a part.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
3/6/2014 | 10:01:41 AM
Oracle blameless in Oregon health insurance exchange fiasco?
Sheehan's perspective is interesting, but does it seem credible to you that Oracle could be completely blameless in this mess? I can imagine that poor direction from state project managers might have gotten the project off on the wrong foot and the "very ambitious business model" Sheehan talks about might have somehow led to poor decisions. So the project stumbled, but why has it still failed to recover all these months later?
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