The date was Oct. 19, 2013 and Oregon's health exchange website was 19 days late.
Yet, state technology workers and their counterparts at Oracle were convinced they were on the right track, so much so that they discussed making their technology available to the federal government to rescue the fed's then-struggling healthcare.gov exchange site.
"How is Oregon's exchange looking? Any possibility it could be the answer to an overhaul," Oracle executive Donna-Mae Shyduik asked in an email.
"I think it could be," answered Caroline Lawson, then chief information officer of the Oregon Health Authority. "The core of the application, the rules engine, is solid. What we are seeing now are product integration issues. Should be settled in about a week."
Six months later, the roles are reversed. Oregon is adopting the federal exchange after it failed utterly to develop its own functioning insurance exchange despite spending $248 million on the project.
The email discussion with Lawson was contained in several hundred emails obtained by The Oregonian and other media outlets this week in response to public records requests. The emails offer a poignant and nearly real-time look at last October's failed rollout -- as early exhilaration gave way to frustration and recriminations as the technology simply didn't work.
While earlier emails gave a look behind the scenes at Cover Oregon, the public corporation set up to operate the exchange, these focus on the Oregon Health Authority, in charge of building the exchange in the first place.
There was nothing but back-slapping congratulation on Oct. 1, despite the fact Oregon had missed the federal deadline for a working exchange. But Gov. John Kitzhaber sent a note to then Oregon Health Authority Director Bruce Goldberg and his team. "The work you started -- and the work you started today -- has helped make Cover Oregon a reality," Kitzhaber wrote. "This is a proud moment for our state."
Oracle Group Vice President Hamidou Dia offered his congratulations to Lawson. "This would have never happened without your vision from the get go and your leadership," he said. "We are very proud for having been your partner through this journey. Well done Madame. We need to celebrate one of these days."
Within days, however, the good will gave way to growing tension, particularly with Oracle, as the problems with the exchange seemed to grow in number.
On April 8, OHA IT manager Kathleen Paul wrote to her coworkers that needed testing was not done until her team stepped in. "It does not appear that we will be able to hit any of our timelines ...unfortunately, I have to be grateful that my team has taken the time to do this. It appears the Oracle team did not."
Paul also commented on problems with the Oracle database called Siebel, essentially the heart of Cover Oregon and a sister project at the state.
"The news that Siebel is not ready to hold basic data that has been on every version of the application for months is very very troubling," she wrote.
"We are in a very bad spiral here," Paul wrote in an Oct. 9 email to Lawson. "I am not sure what more I can do to get us out of it. I have adapted the schedule, worked with executive leadership to get more time for production deployment, and attempted to be as flexible as possible so that Oracle can get work done. Basically, OHA is doing all the flexing and giving on standards, processes and timelines."
Though Cover Oregon took over the main exchange work in May, OHA remained in charge of setting up an interface so people could use the exchange to enroll in the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan.
The e-mails also show how far relations deteriorated with the California IT vendor. In late September, Lawson attended a convention called Oracle OpenWorld, and gave a presentation edited and copyrighted by Oracle, praising Oregon and Oracle's work, one e-mail shows..
In Oct. 14, however, she wrote to a colleague that "Steve B" (an apparent reference to Oracle executive Steve Bartolo) "is working very hard to 'manage my expectations' but not working to deliver what is needed."
The technical challenges continued unabated through November. On the 22nd, Paul informed Lawson of a disastrous test of the system's user interface.
"Over 20 people tried to log in and use the screens at various points during the day," Paul said. "Sometimes things worked, sometimes they worked for a bit, then people got kicked out, sometimes people could log in to one machine and not into another.
"Over the course of the day, less than five enrollments managed to be entered successfully and processed through..."
Just two weeks before, state and Oracle workers had celebrated the user interface, which had seemed stable when first introduced.
"So disappointing," Lawson responded. "I am so embarrassed that I had been so positive."
©2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)