New England News
6:26 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

MA Seeking Help In Addressing Health Website Woes

Credit wikipedia.org

A federally supported research group will assist Massachusetts officials in reviewing the state’s options regarding the company contracted to operate its health insurance website.

The Massachusetts Health Connector is enlisting the help of The MITRE Corporation to review the website’s capability and frame further action. Jean Yang is the connector’s executive director. She says the agency is looking at all options regarding its contract with CGI Group, the company hired to streamline the state’s website under the Affordable Care Act.

“We could be looking at potentially modifying the scope or looking at bringing in new resources whether it’s within the existing vendor or additional vendors,” Yang said. “Everything is being looked at.”

Yang says the use of a team from MITRE, a non-profit research group with IT expertise, is being arranged by the federally-run Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services at no cost to the state. MITRE will do a top-down review of the site’s functionality and report its findings to the connector’s board on January 17. The connector has set up work-around methods to make ends meet such as mailing out coverage options, tripling staff levels at call centers and enrolling 26,000 people in temporary coverage. Yang says her agency is tracking the costs of these more time consuming methods to be considered when they address accountability with CGI.

“For example we have temporary coverage for people but really the actual cost is really going to be a function of who these people are and how they are going to leverage services during the transition which could look vastly different from a steady state population,” Yang explained. “So it is extremely difficult to estimate cost. The manual workaround is also evolving as we adjust the processes, staffing levels and everything else.”

Yang says those people will remain on temporary coverage until they can be moved into permanent coverage. The $69 million contract Massachusetts has with CGI is milestone-based. Yang says the state has paid $11 million so far.  

“We are not going to be making additional payments until key milestones are delivered,” said Yang.

CGI, a Montreal-based technology company, is one of many working on the federal health care site. The company is also contracted with seven states including Colorado, Kentucky and California whose sites have run relatively smoothly since their October 1 rollout. Meanwhile, Vermont is withholding payments and has assessed more than $5 million in liquidated damages from CGI. Vermont’s site is fully operationally for individuals, but is still testing functions that would allow small businesses’ to provide coverage for employees. Vermont’s Director of Health Care Reform Robin Lunge says it is also reviewing its options with CGI and is seeking bids for an independent review of its entire website process.

“The governor has not been satisfied with CGI’s performance, but we do think the most important thing moving forward is getting our system up and running and getting Vermonters covered,” said Lunge.

A spokesperson for CGI declined to comment on record. In December, A CGI spokeswoman told The Boston Globe the company is working to fix state websites, has already improved performance and intends to honor its contracts.