SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

March 26, 2014

Bungling mars health care deadline

(Continued)

“I mean, this is an immense amount of money on a project that I think in the end, if I were betting right now, I would bet that they will abandon the Maryland exchange and either import another state exchange like Connecticut’s that works or go to the federal exchange,” Harris said.

In addition to making major fixes, Maryland officials are considering whether to adopt technology developed by another state, join a consortium of other states running their own exchanges or partner with the federal exchange.

In Massachusetts, where health care reform implemented under then-Gov. Mitt Romney was used as a model for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, officials announced earlier this month that they were cutting ties with CGI Group Inc. The Montreal-based firm also was the lead contractor on the troubled federal health care website that operates in 36 states.

CGI was hired last year under a $68 million contract to develop a website transitioning Massachusetts’ previous health insurance program to reflect requirements under the federal law.

But technical problems quickly led to a backlog of 50,000 paper applications, a pile that has since been whittled to about 21,000. The state hired Optum, another health care technology firm, to come up with short- and long-term solutions for the website, for which it was to be paid at least $16.4 million through the end of March.

“The picture we are painting is that we have a long way to go,” said Sarah Iselin, a health care executive hired by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to oversee fixing the website. “We are not going to sugarcoat anything.”

Vermont changed from Oracle to a subsidiary of CGI only months before Vermont Health Connect was to go live. The system is slow, does not allow users to correct mistakes and cannot process premium payments.

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