Cover Oregon project getting on track according to independent report

PORTLAND, Ore. - Cover Oregon is making progress in salvaging part of its failed website, according a new review from quality-assessment contractor Maximus.

For the first time in the project's history, it's not rated as a high risk to fail. Maximus pegged the project as a medium risk in a report released to the media on Thursday at Cover Oregon's headquarters in Durham.

Cover Oregon leaders have said they're paying attention to Maximus' findings, and plan to implement their suggestions.

Maximus listed two areas of concern that have persisted from the beginning: An aggressive timeline and a lack of testing.

Testing has just begun on a build that will send people to, the website for the federal exchange.

Maximus praised project managers for refocusing the staff.

The site needs to be ready to accept private signups by Nov. 15.

But the improved assessment may also be a product of good timing.

Though it's dated July 28, the report only covers work done on the exchange in May and June. The On Your Side Investigators identified at least one performance indicator that didn't make it into this report that could have a dramatic impact on the success of the whole project - software testing.

Cover Oregon and Deloitte have been working to find a permanent fix for the exchange, which still relies largely on Oracle's old framework.

However, under "Findings/Recommendations" for the private insurance side of the site, Maximus staffers wrote that "Test planning is not scheduled to start until early July and so cannot be evaluated at this time."

The silver lining? Maximus thinks it's still early enough that even a major failure can be fixed in time - provided everything else goes according to plan.

"This transition has resulted in a number of different efforts operating simultaneously," notes Maximus.

That's something of an understatement - at the time the report was written, new Executive Director Aaron Patnode hadn't yet come on board, there's still no official budget process in place, nor has Cover Oregon hired a new Chief Information Officer to oversee the IT side of the job.

On the plus side, the state now has a system integrator to manage the project timelines, a contract that holds programming partner Deloitte accountable for missed deadlines or bad code, and the scope of the website has been scaled down to just basic services for individuals and families.

The small-business exchange - a key component of the original Cover Oregon concept - won't be online until at least next year.

All of those steps were recommended by Maximus months ago, but were downplayed or ignored by the former executive team of Cover Oregon Director Rocky King, OHA Director Bruce Goldberg, OHA CIO Carolyn Lawson and Cover Oregon CIO Aaron Karjala. All of them are out of a job and their performance is now the focus of criminal and civil investigations at both the federal and state levels.

Transition Director Edlund promised that Cover Oregon will listen to Maximus' recommendations this, and has already started to adopt many of the changes in this report.

Maximus indicated it is willing to give Cover Oregon the benefit of the doubt:

"This process, while challenging at times, has refocused CO staff on maintaining the existing system and mobilization of resources towards the new goal of utilizing the Federally Facilitated Marketplace," the report reads.