Guess the publication that wrote about the disaster that is Oregon’s Obamacare insurance exchange


The news story is pretty grim, detailing the fact that the Obamacare insurance exchanges are so difficult to build, even when a private contractor is handling the work, that disaster is the only outcome:

Oregon has spent more than $40 million to build its own online health care exchange. It gave that money to a Silicon Valley titan, Oracle, but the result has been a disaster of missed deadlines, a nonworking website and a state forced to process thousands of insurance applications on paper.

Some Oregon officials were sounding alarms about the tech company’s work on the state’s online health care exchange as early as last spring. Oracle was behind schedule and, worse, didn’t seem able to offer an estimate of what it would take to get the state’s online exchange up and running.

“It is the most maddening and frustrating position to be in, absolutely,” says Liz Baxter, chairwoman of the board for , the state’s online exchange. “We have spent a lot of money to get something done — to get it done well — to serve the people in our state, and it is maddening that we can’t seem to get over this last hump.”

Before you go here to read the rest, try to guess at which publication you’ll find this story.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of reasons that even Oracle had problems:

(1) Despite the fact that Oracle is a private sector company, the party on the other side of the deal is government.  That stultifies everything.  Government projects tend to suck the life out of things, because they have no dynamic energy.  They’re so hedged about by rules and regulations that there is no room for initiative, creativity, energy, or the type of greed that drives progress.

(2) Obamacare is such a monstrous law, and the moving parts are so many and varied, that there is actually no way to create a working system.  The interface is just the pretty stuff, and that’s been frustrating enough.  The real problem is meshing individual information (much of it deeply personal and private), corporate insurance information, state information, federal information, Medicare information, etc.  After all, at the back-end, each of these entities have their own computer systems with which the Obamacare system must mesh.

Even Rube Goldberg’s designs, foolishly complicated though they were, ultimately did the job.  With Obamacare, though, it’s reasonable to suspect that, short of jettisoning every system (state, federal, insurance, medical, Obamacare exchanges) and starting anew with all of them going into the same hopper, there is no way that any computer system can actually do the job.

Oh, and I can’t resist adding here that, to the extent that news story is saying something critical of Obamacare, there’s only one word for it:  RAAACIST!!!!

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  • Earl


    Now we know why NPR wrote the story….they used it as a hook to make a private company look as bad as the government workers who made the national website.


  • JKB

    Reading  Ed Driscoll’s post today, I realized the perfect simile for Obamacare. 
    The <a href=””>house from Arrested Development  </a>
    <blockquote>The house gradually falls apart as the series progresses, illustrating just how well Bluth construction worked. It is revealed in the series that the model home’s design was used in Iraq for Saddam Hussein’s palaces.</blockquote>

  • David Foster

    Huge and radical software projects don’t have a very good track record, even in the private sector. Hershey’s implementation of a company-wide Enterprise Resource Planning system, for example, was so screwed up that it caused the company to lose a significant portion of its Halloween business in that year.
    A classic example of an over-reaching project was the FAA/IBM project known as the Advanced Automaton System for air traffic control. The AAS was to be was to be a revolutionary system that would drive sweeping change in all aspects of air traffic control–“as radical a departure from well-worn mores and customs as the overflow of the czars,” as participant Robert Britcher pus it. An engineer explained the spirit of the project thusly:
    You’re living in a modest house and you notice the refrigerator deteriorating. The ice sometimes melts, and the door isn’t flush, and the repairman comes out, it seems, once a month. Then you notice it’s bulky and doesn’t save energy, and you’ve seen those new ones at Sears. The first thing you do is look into some land a couple of states over, combined with several other houses of similar personality. Then you get I M Pei and some of the other great architects and hold a design run-off…
    A $3.7B contract was awarded to IBM. The project went on, year after year, becoming ever more complex and convoluted. One controller, after viewing a prototype, told CBS Evening New that “It takes me twelve commands to do what I used to do with one.” In 1994, In 1994, David Hinson, the new FAA Administrator, terminated the project, and a more evolutionary approach was taken to future ATC system improvements.

  • Ymarsakar

    Text color is looking good, Book. Now, just got to adjust the text color in the quotes.

  • raymondjelli

    If Oracle can’t do this no one can. They are database specialists in hardware and software and probably already have interfaces written for every piece of hardware that the government has. The issue is not technical. This was never designed to work. Like the most corrupt political machines in places like Chicago the federal government just steals and stares you in the face saying too bad. That’s life. The question now is not whether Obamacare can work the question is who put through legislation meant to fail and who were dumb not enough to put through legislation meant to fail but thought it was legitimate.

  • Katja

    Happy Hanukkah!  Hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving as well!  :)  There’s a blog that I stumbled on through Ace of Spades that is really excellent.  It is written by a man who does IT system construction and analysis, and he’s been posting for a long time about Obamacare through that lens.  He recently posted a summary of stuff he’s been saying for a long time about Obamacare, and that post can be found here: However, there’s a LOT of good posts over there in general.  

    • Bookworm

      Thanks for the recommendation, Katja.  I love it that Bruce Webster, the proprietor at And Still I Persist also had that Rube Goldberg feeling….  (Only Obamacare is worse, of course.)

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