“Bottom Line: We Are On Track To Launch” ranks right up there with “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” as one of the biggest falsehoods in the annals of Obamacare.
The latter quote is the one that President Barack Obama used repeatedly as he lobbied for passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and then as he campaigned for a second presidential term. PolitiFact named Obama’s statement the 2013lie of the year.
Less is known about the first quote, offered by Rocky King in a PowerPoint presentation. King was the then-Executive Director of Cover Oregon. This was the name of the healthcare exchange and related website for the state of Oregon, one of 14 states (and the District of Columbia) that set-up state-run healthcare exchanges as part of Obamacare. The remaining 36 states rely on the federal exchange to enroll citizens in the new healthcare program. King offered his quote in a presentation that was dated two weeks before the Cover Oregon website was to go live on October 1, 2013.
What King should have known was that the Cover Oregon website wasn’t anywhere close to being ready for launch. In fact, half a year after the official launch date the website is still not functioning properly. As many as 500 people were hired or reassigned by the state after the website failure in order to process healthcare paper applications. King submittedhis resignation as executive director in early January.
The Cover Oregon debacle is the biggest healthcare scandal you’ve never heard about. It is also perhaps the biggest government IT failure in U.S. history. The federal healthcare website (www.healthcare.gov) cost at least three times more but at least it’s now operating. No such luck for Cover Oregon.
More than $200 million was spent on building the Cover Oregon website and healthcare exchange. No one appears to confidently know the exact figure since generally accepted business practices were not rigorously followed.
The lead vendor for the project was software giant Oracle, although the process to select a vendor wasn’t very competitive. By the time the entire procurement process was over, Oracle was the only company in consideration. Other potential vendors dropped out of the bidding when the scope of the project became known.
Relatively little money spent on Cover Oregon actually came from the state. Most of the funds came from federal grants (here, here) totaling $305 million. This is why the Government Accountability Office announced in early March 2014 that it was launching an investigation to determine where and how federal money was spent.