New emails show Cover Oregon unraveling in days before launch

PORTLAND, Ore. - Newly unearthed emails deliver uncensored insights into the internal unraveling of Cover Oregon before the site was unveiled to the public.

KATU's On You Side Investigators dug through hundreds of emails between executives of Cover Oregon and Oracle - the company responsible for the website's creation - that expose serious concerns about the site being doomed just days before launch.

There was even debate about whether Oracle should even been hired in the first place.

In one email less than two weeks before the website for was to go live, executive director Rocky King was losing sleep over Oracle's inability to get even the little things right.

"We do not want to be dismissed before we even begin," King wrote in a 4 a.m. email to a top executive at Oracle.

King highlighted some of the problems.

"Myriad" spelling errors.

"Drab pages."

"Links that don't work."

"We will all look dumb and it will come across as an amateur site," he wrote. "This has little to do with functionality but a lot to do with perception."

Read some of the emails:

Maybe so, but the functionality wasn't there either.

Oct. 1 came and went and Cover Oregon's website was unable to register people - let alone enroll them in a health care plan.

The state's top politicians - including Governor John Kitzhaber and Sen. Jeff Merkely - were so alarmed they bypassed King and contacted Oracle executives and Cover Oregon staff directly to understand the problems.

The problem, they heard, was Oracle.

Cover Oregon's emails - both internally and those sent to Merkley's office - describe Oracle's performance as "at best, unacceptable."

Oracle's development team had an "undeserved amount of arrogance" and "their overall technical skill levels are questionable," the emails show.

In short, Oracle "did not have the in-house expertise for what they were contracted to deliver."

A spokesman for Oracle declined to comment.

King, who left Cover Oregon last month for medical reasons, tried to remain upbeat about the project but showed the strain he was under after one particularly grueling legislative hearing.

"I'm going out to buy a dog so I have one friend!" he wrote.

Rocky King stepped down as Cover Oregon's director in early December to take a medical leave. Oregon Health Authority director Bruce Goldberg stepped into the role temporarily until a long-term director is named.

KATU's On Your Side Investigators are still going through the emails and will report more on our findings in the coming days.

Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: