Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange says it will pay its main technology contractor $44 million of the nearly $70 million it was withholding in payments, in return for Oracle to continue working with the state during a transition period.
The announcement Monday says Cover Oregon will continue to withhold $25.6 million that Oracle Corp. has claimed for technology development work from November 2013 through Feb. 28, 2014.
The state has already paid Oracle more than $90 million in federal funds for building the exchange. It stopped payments after the exchange website failed to go live Oct. 1 and serious problems with the site's coding came to light.
Oregon is the only state that still doesn't have an online portal where the general public can sign up for health insurance in one sitting through a marketplace required under President Barack Obama's health care law.
Cover Oregon says that under the transition agreement, Oracle will provide services during open enrollment, which ends March 31. The contractor will also provide "transition services, maintenance and repairs."
Cover Oregon reserves the right to sue Oracle over present and prior payments.
The agreement follows a pullout Friday of 100 Oracle software developers — nearly two-thirds of Cover Oregon's Oracle workforce — from the exchange project. Just 65 Oracle developers remain to work on the site.
It comes even though the public still doesn't have access to the promised seamless, swift sign-ups for coverage, and key features of the website are unfinished.
Cover Oregon did launch the online enrollment system in mid-February to insurance agents and community organizations — more than four months after it was originally scheduled to be operational.
Exchange officials have said they're now focusing on fixes to the system, with the hope of opening up to the general public before the current enrollment period ends March 31. But no date has been set for the public launch.
Work on several website features that remain unfinished is also on hold. Those features include the ability for small businesses and employees to enroll in coverage or the ability to send enrollment files directly to the carriers.
A technology consultant hired by Cover Oregon is looking at future options for the exchange. Cover Oregon also says it will convene a group that includes private sector technology experts to help choose the best options.
Two options to be reviewed by that group include contracting with a different technology contractor to finish work on the exchange and incorporating technology from other states or the federal exchange. The options mentioned do not include staying the course with Oracle.