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Gov. John Kitzhaber seeks Cover Oregon shake-up

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm •  Published: March 20, 2014
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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's Gov. John Kitzhaber asked for a shake-up of Cover Oregon's top leadership Thursday after an independent investigation found that state managers had repeatedly failed to heed reports about problems that prevented the online health insurance exchange from launching on time.

The Democratic governor said at a news conference that he has directed the Cover Oregon Board to find a new chief operating officer and chief information officer.

It will be up to the board when COO Triz delaRosa and CIO Aaron Karjala would be replaced, the governor's office said.

Kitzhaber also said Bruce Goldberg has resigned as director of the Oregon Health Authority, the agency which was originally in charge of designing and building the health exchange website.

For the past few months, Goldberg has been acting as interim director of Cover Oregon after the previous executive director Rocky King went on medical leave and resigned. Kitzhaber said Goldberg will remain in that position until a new Cover Oregon executive director is hired, most likely within the next month or two.

Goldberg has been one of Kitzhaber's most trusted advisers and was instrumental in crafting the governor's health system overhauls.

Goldberg, delaRosa and Karjala did not respond to a request for comments from The Associated Press.

The review of the troubled exchange found poor management at Cover Oregon, "unrealistic optimism," poor communication, and an overly ambitious project scope as key reasons for Cover Oregon's failed launch. The governor ordered the review by Atlanta-based First Data Government Solutions in January at a cost of $228,000.

"Although past performance on the project indicated a history of missed deadlines and problems, the Cover Oregon leadership and the State continued to trust that performance would improve," the report says.

According to the review, there was no single point of authority on the exchange project. Key managers became "desensitized" to negative quality assurance warnings. A weak contract meant the state could not enforce deadlines or work quality. And competing priorities and a conflict between Cover Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority added to the problems.

Investigators also said the decision against using a system integrator to oversee exchange building, made by a former health authority CIO and approved by Goldberg, led to "lack of accountability" and "unrealistic delivery expectations."

The exchange's fiasco has created tremendous political pressure for Kitzhaber, who championed the exchange, and state legislators who overwhelmingly backed it. The governor has repeatedly said — and again insisted Thursday — that he was not disengaged from the Cover Oregon process and was repeatedly assured the project was on track.

"I don't think we were misled," Kitzhaber said. "I think we were given information that led us to believe that this project was going to be done on time."

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