Lawmaker: Fire Vermont exchange’s tech giant

By Bruce Parker | For Vermont Watchdog

Vermont lawmakers are calling for the firing of the technology company behind Vermont Health Connect following reports that Maryland and Massachusetts are dumping the IT firms responsible for their failed health-care exchanges.

FIRE THEM: State Rep. Don Turner says fire CGI.

“We Vermonters deserve better than we’re getting. We have wasted millions and millions of federal dollars, and the exchange does not work as promised,” state Rep. Don Turner told Vermont Watchdog.

Turner, Vermont’s House minority leader, is calling for the firing of the state’s technology consultant, CGI.

“There are still major malfunctions with the system, and we should be holding CGI accountable as well as the commissioner in charge of this project. I personally think we should terminate all of them and start over,” Turner said.

It wouldn’t be the first time CGI was fired for failing to set up an Obamacare exchange. The federal government fired CGI in January for hopelessly bungling the rollout of Healthcare.gov. Two weeks ago Massachusetts gave CGI the pink slip for failing to set up its exchange.

This week a Hawaii state senator urged the federal Government Accountability Office to investigate CGI’s role in the troubled Hawaii Health Connector website.

As such failures continue across the country, Vermont lawmakers say they worry that CGI’s performance issues may be playing out again in technical problems related to Vermont Health Connect.

“Our company is CGI, which is the same outfit that rolled out the federal version. The feds gave them up, and we still have them,” Sen. Joseph Benning told Vermont Watchdog. “Our IT system failed miserably in the rollout of our exchange.”

CGI has been accused of receiving government favors, including no-bid contracts. Despite the company’s checkered past, CGI continues to work on a $6-billion federal contract for the Department of Homeland Security.

An independent report filed at the request of Gov. Peter Shumlin attributes CGI’s technical hang-ups to short deadlines and the magnitude of the project.

When asked why CGI continues to provide services on the build-out of Vermont’s health-care exchange, Turner said it’s not easy to quit.

“They say we’re too far into the development of this program with CGI, and that the federal money is going to dry up at the end of this year,” he said. “They don’t want to lose the opportunity of completing the website with federal dollars.”

The Washington Post reported that Maryland abandoned its state exchange after investing more than $125 million in taxpayer dollars. Health administrators there fired technology contractor Noridian Healthcare Solutions and have tapped Deloitte to import Connecticut’s IT system. In Massachusetts, health-care administrators canned CGI after paying out $15 million of a $68 million contract scheduled to last until September.

Turner said Vermont has spent approximately $20 million of its $84 million contract with CGI.

The potential loss of federal dollars, while significant for Vermont, could pale in comparison to a catastrophic failure of the entire exchange, as is reportedly taking place in Maryland and Massachusetts.

Turner rejects the Shumlin administration’s claim that Vermont must keep CGI despite the firm’s flagging performance.

“I think we should be holding them accountable. We should be terminating their contract and moving forward with another vendor,” he said.

Contact Bruce Parker at bparker@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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