Oracle is striking back after being blamed and sued for the spectacular failure of the Cover Oregon state Obamacare exchange. After spending more than $300 in federal taxpayer funds, the Cover Oregon exchange opened and not a single Oregon citizen was able to sign up for healthcare insurance via the exchange. Then Gov. John Kitzhaber, while seeking reelection, appointed his political advisers to pull the plug on Cover Oregon and sign up the state for the federal Obamacare exchange instead. The Kitzhaber and his cronies sought to shift the blame from themselves by suing Oracle, the IT firm they hired to build the web site. Soon after the consequences of the Cover Oregon corruption lead to newly reelected Gov. Kitzhaber to resign his office as governor.
But Oracle is not letting them get away with it, they are suing the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand a full investigation of the Cover Oregon scandal. Suit Asks Court to Require HHS to Investigate Allegations Against State and Contractors Around Oregon’s Failed Health Exchange; Allegations Against State Include Illegally Hijacking “Independent” Board, Making False Statements to HHS, the press release for Oracle announces.
By filing the suit, Oracle seeks to force HHS to exercise its oversight duties under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by investigating serious allegations of misconduct, mismanagement and fraud against the state of Oregon and private contractors, including Oracle, related to the failure of Cover Oregon. The ACA requires such oversight, and despite that, HHS has not yet fulfilled its responsibility in this area.
The filing seeks to force HHS to exercise its oversight duties under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by investigating serious allegations of misconduct, mismanagement and fraud against the state of Oregon and private contractors, including Oracle, related to the failure of Cover Oregon. The ACA requires such oversight, and despite that, HHS has not yet fulfilled its responsibility in this area.
“We are taking this action because the extraordinary facts of this case require federal investigation and oversight,” said John Cooney, Partner at Venable LLP, speaking for Oracle. “The state of Oregon illegally hijacked its independent health insurance board called Cover Oregon, gave unelected political operatives control over ACA implementation, made false statements to HHS, shut down a working exchange to shore up the re-election campaign of an embattled Governor, and then filed litigation against a contractor to attempt to distract attention from its own failures. Secretary Burwell has the statutory responsibility under the ACA to investigate these types of allegations against all parties involved, and we hope this suit will ensure she exercises that authority promptly.”
The ACA requires HHS to investigate claims of misconduct and fraud in the use of federal funds, and Oracle claims substantial evidence of misconduct, mismanagement and/or fraud in the use of federal funds in the failed Cover Oregon exchange. E-mails show that the exchange was illegally put under control of unelected political advisors, and that state officials made false statements to HHS to receive further federal payments to support the exchange. The suit states that it is necessary, and required by the ACA law itself, that HHS conducts a full investigation of Cover Oregon.
“The Oregon litigation underscores the reasons why Congress insisted that a federal agency have the responsibility to investigate allegations of misconduct involving state exchanges, rather than allowing for situations where the states can investigate themselves,” said Ken Glueck, Senior Vice President at Oracle. “When state officials may bear culpability for the failure of an exchange, or worse, may have committed fraud against the federal government, that state clearly cannot serve as an impartial party to judge its own conduct in any subsequent investigation or litigation. In such situations, where such wrongdoing is clearly in evidence, the federal government must step up to its duty to protect the interests of the public, and we believe that the law requires it to do so.”
There are still so many unanswered questions about what lead to the closing of Cover Oregon and the spending of more than $300 in federal taxpayer funds on the failed exchange. While the law requires oversight by HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt, both have dragged their feet and have failed to answer questions from Senators and Members of Congress performing their oversight responsibility. The entire mess seriously needs to be investigated in full, and it can only be hoped the suit from Oracle will make this happen.