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Oregon health exchange technology troubles run deep due to mismanagement, early decisions

by Nick Budnick | on December 14, 2013

Tim Lagerhausen, left, and Shailesh Jain of Oracle join dozens of programmers at work completing the Cover Oregon website. With the application deadline looming, the state was forced to use paper applications to the health insurance exchange when the online process failed. (Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian)

Tim Lagerhausen, left, and Shailesh Jain of Oracle join dozens of programmers at work completing the Cover Oregon website. With the application deadline looming, the state was forced to use paper applications to the health insurance exchange when the online process failed. (Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian)

On Sept. 28, while a raging storm toppled trees and cut electricity to thousands of Portlanders, the idealistic troops of Cover Oregon were enduring a painful storm of their own in a quiet suburban office building south of the city.

They had gathered on a Saturday for final testing of the state's health insurance exchange. More than a website, it was a gateway to a new era of better, more affordable, more democratic health care.

But their high hopes turned to shock and alarm when the website didn't work. It crashed, it flashed repeated error messages, it couldn't process the most routine insurance enrollment scenario.

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