Cover Oregon's chief tech official resigns; site has signed up exactly zero people

And another one bites the dust. The leaders of each of Minnesota, Maryland, and Hawaii’s state-run exchanges have all hit the road, and earlier this month, the executive director of Oregon’s own epically botched exchange announced he was taking an extended “medical leave.” Now, it looks like the next-in-line at Cover Oregon is getting the boot, too, via OregonLive:

Carolyn Lawson, the embattled state technology executive who oversaw much of the development of Oregon’s troubled health insurance exchange, has resigned for personal reasons.

It was Lawson, chief information officer at the Oregon Health Authority, who decided the state could manage the complex exchange project itself, rather than hire a private-sector systems integrator, a decision since criticized by her superiors. Lawson also was close to Oracle Corp., the California technology giant that has been blamed for doing shoddy work and repeatedly missing deadlines. …

As The Oregonian reported Sunday, the exchange has been plagued by poor work by Oracle. Miscues by state managers have also figured prominently in the exchange’s issues.

An August 2012 report from the project’s quality assurance contractor found the exchange project was disorganized, lacked basic management and budget controls to ensure contractor performance. The exchange’s fate was further endangered by distrust and lack of communication between Lawson’s Oregon Health Authority and Cover Oregon, the public corporation that took over responsibility for the exchange’s contracts in May 2013.

Oregon’s exchange has been plagued with entirely prohibitive glitches since day one, and nearing three months and $160 million Oregonian taxpayer dollars later, they haven’t managed to make the site even just barely functional. Back in mid-November, they predicted that they’d have the site finally ready to go by December 16th — and yet, lo and behold, that deadline has come and gone and their refreshed estimate is kicking the date back by weeks or even months. They do have signups trickling in via paper application (they had to make 400 emergency hires to process applications when they realized their website didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it off the ground anytime soon), but the back-and-forth required to sign up for health insurance means that’s a mighty slow, complex, and error-prone way to do things. At the last count, Oregon had only enrolled 730 people in private plans — ranking them dead last for signups in the nation. Ouch.

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