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State healthcare website drops contractor, CGI

As Massachusetts leaders scramble to enroll all residents with healthcare coverage by the March 31 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act deadline, the Commonwealth has chosen to drop CGI Group Inc., contractor of the faulty Massachusetts Health Connector website.

Sarah Iselin, who began her job as special assistant to the governor for the healthcare project’s delivery six weeks ago, announced the decision to part ways from CGI at a board of directors meeting Monday. The contracting company has been working with the Commonwealth on the healthcare website since July 2012, said Jason Lefferts, director of communications at Massachusetts Health Connector.

“Quite simply, based on past performance and current needs, we must move from CGI,” he said. “In order to not jeopardize the future of the project and leave us further behind, we hope to be able to negotiate a thoughtful transition with CGI.”

CGI will continue to work with Massachusetts Health Connector until a negotiation is reached between the two companies, but Lefferts said he is confident the transition will be a smooth and amicable process.

“We’re at the very beginning of negotiating that transition,” he said. “They are still here and involved at this point. CGI does have a good reputation of insurance with hand-offs. Preliminary conversations indicate at this point that they are ready to do that in this case as well.”

Linda Odorisio, vice president of global communications for CGI, said their company has worked hard to deliver an efficient health insurance program to Massachusetts residents.

“We will work with the Commonwealth to ensure a smooth transition to the next phase of exchange deployment, allowing for the best use of system capabilities already in place,” she said in an email.

In February, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick brought in Optum, a Minnesota-based information technology corporation, to help CGI with the healthcare website glitches. Lefferts said the two groups have spent the past six weeks working with Iselin on the long and short-term goals of the website. After consideration, the Massachusetts Health Connector board of directors determined it was time to part ways with CGI.

Lefferts said the change in leadership will not effect the efficiency of the website as the Affordable Care Act deadline approaches. Between the website application process and the paper applications, over 100,000 Commonwealth residents have applied for subsidized care for the first time.

“We are encouraged by the number of people who have applied,” he said. “Clearly, we’ve found that there’s a lot of interest in the choice benefits and expanded subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act.”

Massachusetts Health Connector has not announced any plans to hire a new contractor for the project, but their goal is to have the system operating correctly by Nov. 15, the start of the fall enrollment period. In the meantime, Massachusetts residents can finish their applications for this enrollment period on paper if the website gives them an error message.

“Massachusetts came into this as the national leader in healthcare coverage,” he said. “Despite the problems we’ve had, we’ve been able to sign up tens of thousands of people.”

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