AG Maura Healey continues probe of connector software developer

05.18.2015

This originally ran in the Boston Globe

By Felice J. Freyer, Boston Globe

Attorney General Maura Healey is investigating the performance of CGI, the Canadian software developer that built the failed website for the Massachusetts Health Connector, continuing a review started by her predecessor.

Healey’s investigation adds to other inquiries into what led to the disastrous 2013 rollout of new software for the Connector, a debacle that continues to affect people buying health insurance on their own.

Meanwhile, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which initially led technology development for the website, said the school had received a subpoena from the US attorney as well as requests for documents from the state attorney general and the inspector general of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Jillian Fennimore, deputy press secretary for the state attorney general, said in an e-mail to the Globe: “What happened at the Health Connector was a serious problem that left a lot of people unable to access health coverage. Our office is continuing our work to recover as much money as possible for taxpayers who clearly did not get the website that they paid for.”

The state will be limited, however, to collecting a maximum of $12 million, a cap established in a settlement the Connector negotiated with CGI last year.

The former attorney general, Martha Coakley, revealed last year that she was looking into whether CGI sought payment for services it did not deliver, in an investigation under the False Claims Act, a civil statute. The act allows the attorney general to recover money spent by the state as a result of false or misleading statements and to collect penalties, fees, and costs for fraudulent claims. If Healey, the current attorney general, finds wrongdoing, she could resolve the matter through a negotiated settlement or she could bring a lawsuit.

Fennimore declined to comment on how long the investigation is expected to take.

CGI declined to comment on the attorney general’s review. Responding earlier this month to news of the US attorney’s subpoena, the company said that it had always performed “professionally and ethically” but was hampered by “delays in critical decision-making, changing priorities, and a lack of technical requirements from the Connector.”

The Connector, a state agency serving people who do not get health insurance through an employer, was required to upgrade its website to meet the terms of the federal Affordable Care Act. But the new software, launched in October 2013, never functioned properly and had to be rebuilt.

The state spent $254 million on technology costs associated with building and then replacing the website, most covered by federal grants. But the Connector’s new executive director, Louis Gutierrez, has estimated that additional repairs needed this year will cost $20 million, and other costs associated with the debacle have not been tabulated.

The state ultimately paid CGI $52 million, less than the $89 million called for in the original contract. In an agreement last June ending that contract, CGI accepted the reduced payment, kept intellectual property rights to its work, and agreed to continue working until September 2014 on eligibility and enrollment software for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program.

Because the 2013 website was unable to determine what type of health insurance that applicants were eligible for, the Connector put everyone who sought government assistance in a temporary Medicaid program, whether or not they were eligible. The state also scrapped the CGI website and started over with another company’s software.

The rebuilt Connector website came online last October, and determined the eligibility of half-a-million people. But it lacked other key functions, and its balky payment system continues to cause problems for consumers.

Last week, the conservative-leaning Pioneer Institute released a report alleging that officials in the administration of former governor Deval Patrick knew at least a year ahead of time that the Connector website would not work, but covered it up.

In a statement reacting to the Pioneer Institute report, Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said: “Governor Baker’s team is working hard to clean up the mess left behind by the Democrats, but former governor Patrick owes the people of Massachusetts an apology for his administration’s total incompetence and lack of transparency on this issue.”


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