Oregon governor seeks lawsuit over health exchange

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. John Kitzhaber said Thursday he's seeking a lawsuit against Oracle Corp. over Oregon's online health insurance enrollment system, the failure of which embarrassed the state and resulted in multiple investigations.

In a letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Kitzhaber said he's fired state managers in charge of Cover Oregon, and now it's time to hold accountable the website's main technology contractor.

"This is a very serious decision taking on a very large corporation, the second largest software corporation in the world, but I do not believe they've delivered for the State of Oregon," Kitzhaber told The Associated Press during an interview in his state Capitol office.

Kitzhaber said Rosenblum will make the ultimate decision about whether to file a lawsuit, but he believes the state has strong claims. Cover Oregon and Oracle have agreed not to initiate legal action before May 31.

Oracle has said it's not to blame for the failed launch. In a letter to Cover Oregon's temporary leadership last month, Oracle Corp. President and Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz wrote that Oracle provided "clear and repeated warnings" to Cover Oregon that the exchange website would not be ready to launch last October.

Oregon paid Oracle $134 million in federal funds to build what turned out to be a glitch-filled Cover Oregon website. Oregon is the only state that still doesn't have an online portal where the general public can sign up for health insurance in one sitting through a marketplace required under President Barack Obama's health care law.

The state is still withholding $25.6 million in payments from Oracle. Oregon abandoned plans for fixing the site and is switching to the federal portal used by most states, www.HealthCare.gov.

The website's failure has been an embarrassment for the Democratic governor, who enthusiastically embraced Obama's health care law and has for decades been a respected voice on health care policy.

Kitzhaber declined to say how much money he hoped to recover from Oracle, but he said he's willing to pay for the portions of the website that do work.

"I don't think by any stretch of the imagination Oracle or anyone else could assume that we were paying them to produce a website that didn't work," Kitzhaber said.