One of Peter Shumlin’s chief political rivals has exposed what he says are troubling misfires by the technology firm being paid more than $80 million to construct the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.
Randy Brock, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost his bid last year to unseat the Democratic incumbent, has authored an op-ed alleging that CGI Systems and Technologies has missed all but four of the 21 “critical milestones” written into its $84 million contract.
Based on a review of contracts signed by the Shumlin administration, Brock said the state has also failed to collect millions of dollars in financial penalties owed by CGI for missing the deadlines.
The Shumlin administration says CGI has in fact missed more than half of its stipulated deadlines, and that the contractor is on the hook for more than $5 million in penalties, though the administration has yet to make any attempts to retrieve the money.
Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson said he “fully expects” the penalties will be assessed, but that the state’s priority right now is on getting the exchange up and running.
Brock says the missed deadlines are symptomatic of system-wide failings in “Vermont Health Connect,” the web-based insurance portal set to launch on Tuesday. And the technological shortcomings, Brock alleges, could threaten the insurance security of the more than 100,000 Vermonters who will soon be required to enroll in plans sold on the new website.
“(D)espite the multimillion dollar advertising campaign, despite the governor’s promise that everything is working fine and the system is on target, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brock writes in his op-ed. “The fact of the matter is this: The system doesn’t work.”
The accusations usher in to Vermont some of the same heated political rhetoric that has characterized the debate over the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill. After remaining mostly silent publicly since his 20-point loss to Shumlin last November, Brock’s op-ed, published Sunday on VTDigger.org, has stoked the embers of a health care debate that figured heavily in the race for governor last year.
News of the missed deadlines, and the uncollected penalties associated with them, was first reported publicly by VTDigger.org last Friday evening. Digger reported the information before it published Brock’s op-ed, but after it received a version of his 2,200-word commentary Friday morning.
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, an organization run by Brock’s former campaign manager, Darcie Johnston, that has been critical of Shumlin’s reform proposals, is featuring Brock’s claims in a media campaign launched Monday. The campaign will include social media outreach, and robo-calls to “thousands” of Vermonters warning them they “could be left uninsured in just three months,” and asking them to call the governor’s office to ask him to delay implementation of the exchange mandate.
The Vermont Democratic Party, meanwhile, hit back on behalf of the Shumlin administration with a press release issued Monday afternoon.
For more on the story, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald