Shumlin sticking with CGI, at least for now

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday that Vermont will stick with its main health exchange website contractor, despite reports that the federal government is set to replace the same contractor working on the federal government’s troubled site.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the Obama administration will replace CGI after a disappointing rollout of the federal exchange site, HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states. According to the Post, Accenture will sign a contract with the federal government to continue work on the site.

The Shumlin administration also enlisted CGI to create the state’s exchange known as Vermont Health Connect. Vermont is one of 14 states to design its own site, and one of six individual states to chose CGI as its contractor.

The federal site experienced failures immediately upon its Oct. 1 launch date. The Post reported Friday that CGI’s current federal contract expires in late February, and a new one-year deal worth about $90 million will be signed with Accenture.

VHCVermont Health Connect experienced similar technological glitches. Most users were unable to register and select health insurance plans on the federally mandated exchange after it went live. Access was improved after the first several weeks for individuals, but small businesses with 50 or fewer employees are still unable to enroll in health care plans directly through the site.

Additionally, the online payment system is still not functioning and premiums for those that have signed up through the Vermont exchange up are being invoiced on paper and must be paid by check.

Vermont is the only state to mandate health insurance coverage for individuals and small businesses on the exchange.

Despite the challenges, Shumlin said he plans to stick with CGI as it continues work to improve the site rather than seek a new firm.

“Right now, we have been testing key pieces that will get our exchange where it needs to be to help small businesses sign up and to be able to pay electronically. My focus — my sole focus right now — is working with CGI and our partners to have them get that right,” Shumlin said in an interview Friday. “It’s taken them too long already and my job is to keep the pedal to the metal.

Shumlin did not commit to sticking with CGI forever, though.

“I didn’t say that,” he said. “I said that my focus really has to be getting the pieces that we have been testing working.”

Dumping CGI now would is not in the state’s best interest, according to Shumlin.

“When you’re in the build of a complex technology project and you have contracted for a product that needs to be delivered, it’s usually not in your best interest when you get 80 percent of the way to bring in a new contractor,” he said.

Still, the governor said his team did consider that option after the rocky rollout in October.

“When we looked at the disappointing rollout in early October we looked at all the options and felt that it was in our best interest to do what we’ve been doing, which is to work together with a contractor that has disappointed us and try to get the product that they’re asking us to pay for,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin said his administration is continuing to work with CGI officials, but the relationship has been strained at times.

“We spent a lot of time with them working together to try to get this right. There’s been days where I’ve done that with charm and grace and there’s been days where I’ve used everything else in my arsenal, some of which my mom wouldn’t be proud of. But, we’re trying to get results,” he said.

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