Oregon’s effort to transition its health insurance exchange from a problem-wracked website originally developed by Oracle to the federal Healthcare.gov platform is going according to schedule and expectations, state officials said this week.
“We’re tracking as we should be tracking,” said project head Tina Edlund during a press conference late Thursday, according to news reports. “We’re making the progress we should be making.”
But the state is up against a Nov. 15 open enrollment deadline. A risk assessment report from consulting firm Maximus called the transition timeline “aggressive,” but noted that the new contractor, Deloitte, “has successfully implemented this functionality in 19 states.” The report, dated July 28, said the project overall is currently at a medium risk level.
However, the report is based on activities that occurred during May and June and doesn’t include feedback on functionality testing. “Test planning is not scheduled to start until early July and so cannot be evaluated at this time,” Maximus said in the report. Testing needs “will be minimal for this project,” it added.
The state made “significant progress” during the past few months on a number of fronts, including the hiring of a new executive director for Cover Oregon and the negotiation of a fixed-price contract with Deloitte that is based on delivered functionality, according to Maximus.
That’s a different approach from the one initially taken by the state. Officials decided to lead the project themselves, hiring Oracle consultants on a time-and-materials basis. The project racked up more than US$200 million in costs and sparked a political firestorm that has raged since the site was supposed to go live Oct. 1.
Governor John Kitzhaber has advocated strongly for suing Oracle, calling its work on Cover Oregon shoddy. Oracle maintains the state badly mismanaged the project and that an investigation will “completely exonerate” the company.
However, a federal investigative report has already placed blame on both the state and Oracle.
As for the state’s current effort with Deloitte, nothing is for sure, according to analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret and an expert on the roots of IT project failure.
“Oregonians should be happy their project now seems on track, with a smaller, and hopefully better managed project than before,” he said via email. “However, questions do remain unanswered.”
Among these are what the state is “doing differently this time to ensure that internal managers and staff run the project to better effect,” Krigsman said. It’s also unclear whether the state will come away having learned lessons “to ensure this level of wasted time and resources does not happen again on IT projects,” he added.