Bickering over Cover Oregon nears all-out war

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The fight over Oregon’s failed Obamacare exchange is getting nasty, with Gov. John Kitzhaber threatening legal action against the vendor that built the website while the company accuses state officials of incompetence.

The Oregonian reported that Mr. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, has asked Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to take legal action against Oracle, citing its role in building out the Cover Oregon portal where state residents could shop for private plans, often with the help of government subsidies.

Oregon’s exchange turned into one of the worst in the country, with consumers unable to apply on the website end to end. The disaster prompted state officials to abandon the site in favor of the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, before enrollment starts again in November, and the FBI has requested documents to see if the state misrepresented its progress to the federal government last year.

The state has paid more than $130 million to Oracle, and Mr. Fitzhaber has asked the Health and Human Services Department and Oregon’s senators to use their clout against the vendor, the Oregonian reports.

“There is ample cause there to file a lawsuit,” Mr. Kitzhaber said, according to the newspaper. “We were not delivered a product that worked, and we certainly weren’t delivered a product on time.”

For its part, Oracle sharply refuted the state’s assertions in a lengthy statement blasted out to reporters late Thursday.

“Contrary to the story the State is promoting, Oracle has never led the Oregon Health Exchange project. OHA and Cover Oregon were in charge and badly mismanaged the project by consistently failing to deliver requirements in a timely manner and failing to staff the project with skilled personnel,” the company said.

“The Governor admitted as much in his statement, and these facts are supported by extensive documentation,” it added. “We understand the political nature of the announcement just made and that the Governor wants to shift blame from where it belongs. We are proud of the work that we have done to enable over 420,000 Oregonians to enroll in health care. We look forward to an investigation that we are confident will completely exonerate Oracle.”

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