State of Oregon

The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed or troubled projects from around the world.


Oregon Health Authority – USA
Project type : e-Commerce marketplace
Project name : Cover Oregon
Date : Apr 2014  Cost : $248M

Synopsis :
The problems implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the USA have been well documented. Intended to expand the availability of health insurance to a larger number of people, ACA gave individual states the choice of creating their own health insurance marketplaces or subscribing to a website operated by the federal government. The federal government’s own health care exchange portal encountered serious difficulties when it was released to the public and a number of other states who elected to create their own websites have also had there problems.  Previously I’ve written about the problems in Minnesota and this time attention turns to the situation in Oregon.

As for the Federal site and the one in Minnesota the “Cover Oregon” website failed to perform. At its launch in Oct 2013, the system was simply unable to register applicants and by November 2013 Oregon was forced to draft in hundreds of additional staff so that they could handle paper-based applications.  A target was set to get online applications running by January 2014, but by March 2014 the process was still only partially automated. Despite significant efforts to overcome quality problems, a review in April 2014 found that fixing the deficiencies would cost $78M, while switching to the now fixed federal exchange would cost just $4M to $6M. As a result a decision was made to ditch the system in favour of the federal system.

Following the failure a number of investigations have been launched. The core allegations are that the senior leadership resources responsible for managing the project failed to accurately track progress and gave overly positive reports that masked the project’s underlying problems.

Related story :

  1. MNSure – Minnesota 
  2. Healthcare.gov

Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Overly ambitious scope (Oregon had visions of using Cover Oregon as a “one-stop-shop” not just for citizens to buy private health insurance but also a central resource for registering for the government’s own Medicaid insurance program and other public assistance programs). Failure to heed early warnings that the project was not running smoothly. Poor quality. Allegations of “green shifting” when reporting progress to the federal government who were funding development work.

Reference links :

  1. Not one enrollee: Oregon health website having biggest problem
  2. FBI, inspector general investigators probing Cover Oregon health insurance exchange debacle
  3. U.S. Demands Records Relating To Failed Oregon Obamacare Website
  4. Oregon drops health care site