Is Oracle's Larry Ellison going to pay Oregon back for the Cover Oregon debacle?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Remember when our biggest worry about health care reform in Oregon was the silly Portlandia-style TV ads?

In a legislative hearing last week, Cover Oregon executive Rocky King said that may not be fully functional until AFTER the March 31 deadline for enrolling in health care.

While Oregon's Medicaid expansion is rocking along, with over 70,000 people getting health care (and cutting our uninsured rate by more than 12%), the website has failed to enroll a single individual.

Who's to blame? By all accounts, we can blame the technology giant Oracle (led by the fifth richest guy in the world, Larry Ellison). Oregon has paid Oracle over $43 million (and is already $1.7 million over budget.) Oracle has said they plan to get it up and running by mid-December, too late for people who want to be enrolled on January 1. And even that's highly ambitious compared to Rocky King's "sometime after March 31" timeframe.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein calls Oregon "perhaps the worst disaster zone in Obamacare’s implementation"

Now, I work in technology. And I have a lot of sympathy for big tech projects. But dammit, you have to walk before you can run. And it seems that Oregon's core problem is trying to do it all at once. From OPB's Kristian Foden-Vencil, speaking on NPR's Here & Now:

Here we were so excited about the exchange that we made it much more complicated. Not only can you get - you'll eventually be able to get tax deference and single individual insurance, but also we have the Oregon Health Plan, which is Oregon's version of Medicaid, and the Healthy Kids Initiative.

So they kind of made this one-stop shop for insurance, and they just made it way too complicated. And what they're telling me is, you know, we put in scenarios and families, and most of the time it goes through, and that's OK. But, you know, 20 percent go wrong, and so we can't switch it on with that 20 percent going wrong.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Columbia, 11,000 Washington residents have actually completed enrollment - and another 32,000 have done all the paperwork except pushing the final "buy" button. Maybe we should just buy Washington's software. (Why is that each state is rolling their own solution, anyway?)

Here's what I want to know: How much of that $43 million will Oracle refund? Or more to point, how much of Oregon's $28 million advertising budget will they pick up the tab for? After all, Oregon rolled out a massive ad campaign to promote a website that Oracle failed to deliver.

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