New emails suggest Cover Oregon leaders started celebrating far too early

New emails suggest Cover Oregon leaders started celebrating far too early

PORTLAND,  Ore. – In light of what we know now, Oct. 1, 2013 was not a good day to start toasting the success of Cover Oregon's website.

But making fun of other state's bumpy launches?

A new batch of emails uncovered by the On Your Side Investigators give a front-row seat to the first day of the website's historic failure.

The emails sent to and from the woman who was in charge of building the Cover Oregon website suggest everyone from state leaders to project managers to the software vendor powering the project was oblivious to the scope of the website’s failure on the day it was supposed to launch.

The governor sent out a letter congratulating all involved on a mission accomplished.

Contractor Oracle began discussing plans for a post-launch world and sent a cheeky email pointing out problems other states were experiencing with their own launches.

And since-resigned Oregon Health Authority CIO Carolyn Lawson fielded glowing congratulations from all corners.

Though leaders had said the site wouldn't be fully functional Oct. 1, many involved insist they were led to believe it would work right up until it didn't.

Here’s how the day unfolded.

7:51 a.m.: The day begins with two messages from Oracle to Lawson – both are, in retrospect, cringe-inducing.

The first is a copy of a PowerPoint she had used a week earlier at an Oracle conference. It’s title? “Oregon’s Transformative Leadership In Health and Human Services.”

The second is an email from an Oracle sales manager.

“Sending positive vibes your way for go-live in Oregon!” it reads. “You are making such a difference for the citizens of Oregon.”

9 a.m.: Lawson sends a note to her friend Miriam Paramore, who was named one of Deloitte’s Women to Watch in Healthcare.

“We are ready for the soft launch,” Lawson writes. “We may not open to the public in 2 weeks, it may take 3 because we now have 3000 assisters.  We expected in the neighborhood of 200. We need to get all of them up and going (accounts, training) first. 

"We know there will be glitches, but we don't think there will be anything which is a show stopper.”

9:11 a.m.: Lawson gets a link from an Information Week reporter to an article called “How Oregon Got it Done.”

11:24 a.m.: The mood turns from cautious celebration to full-on schadenfreude when an Oracle director sends out a gleeful email detailing the problems other states are having with their launches.

“Thought you guys would appreciate this…” writes Donna-Mae Shyduik

2:40 p.m.: Gov. John Kitzhaber and then-OHA director Bruce Goldberg send out a thank-you letter to the whole team, which Lawson asks to be forwarded to Oracle and the Office of Information Systems.

2:51 p.m.: The governor’s thank-you letter is followed almost immediately by the first sign of trouble. “We have been experiencing periodic spikes in database volumes today that is having an impact on POS (point of sale – insurance agents) claim processing,” writes Richard Holsapple. “The spikes are causing some POS transactions to time out.”

4:40 p.m.: Lawson writes to Hamza Jahangir, Oracle practice director for enterprise architecture.

“As far as day 1 is concerned, we are doing well,” she writes. “A couple of bumps and lots of work still to do, but right where we expected to be. 

“Lots going on so I have to run.”

4:46 p.m.: Lawson personally forwards the governor’s thank-you to “the Oracle leadership who has been so supportive of our efforts.”

Oracle writes back: “This is great for the teams. They are really energized.”

The next day, Oracle requests a forward-looking meeting to discuss “a post-implementation update and review of upcoming projects.”

This is an early look at a large batch of emails obtained by the On Your Side Investigators. We’ll have more in the days ahead.