Maryland scraps Obamacare website for Connecticut model

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

Governor's Executive Office

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

Washington -- Maryland is scrapping its malfunctioning health care exchange for the technology Connecticut developed for its Obamacare website, AccessHealthCT, the state’s governor said late Tuesday.

“The Health Exchange Board selected a partner with a proven track record to upgrade our website using a platform that has an established record of success,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said. “We’re confident that this partner will have the website upgraded by the time the next open enrollment period begins in November.”

Connecticut’s website was created with the help of private contractors, including Deloitte Consulting and KPMG. It is run by AccessHealthCT CEO Kevin Counihan, who once said his “mission is to make history.”

Counihan met with Maryland exchange officials in Baltimore in February to discuss the possibility of Maryland's using the AccessHealthCT technology in a concept he calls “exchange in a box.”

Counihan said the state must work quickly to rebuild its exchange website if it expects to be ready for the next enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15.

The current enrollment period ended Monday at midnight.

“We learn from both success and failure,” O’Malley said. “The vendors we hired failed to build us the platform they promised. So now that the first open enrollment period has ended, we’ve decided to upgrade our website.”

Counihan had experience developing a health care website. From 2006 to 2011, he was chief marketing officer for the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority, the portal that helped Bay State residents register for health care in a state plan that achieved near universal health coverage and became the model for the Affordable Care Act.

In a letter to the board of the Maryland exchange, called the Maryland Health Connection, O’Malley said he had considered adopting the federal website, HealthCare.gov, which had its share of problems, and he also looked at Kentucky’s exchange, which has run smoothly. Another option was to pour more resources into Maryland’s exchange, but O’Malley also rejected that idea.

“Remediating our system would take over 12 months and cost more than $66 million, and the resulting product would likely still not meet our needs or provide a stable, sustainable system,” he said.

O’Malley hired a private contractor, Optum/QSSI, to look into the problems of the Maryland exchange.

Optum/QSSI reviewed exchange operations in Connecticut, Kentucky, Washington, New York, California and Nevada, the Maryland governor said.

Connecticut won out because its exchange is “proven in the marketplace,” has reusable hardware and software and the potential for expansion, O’Malley said.

He also said the price was the most reasonable. Deloitte gave O’Malley an estimate of between $40 million and $50 million.

“Dropping the failed Maryland Health Connection and moving to a platform that works is the right thing to do for the people of our state,"said Rep. John Delaney, D-Md. "It has been apparent for a very long time that the Maryland Health Connection was not fixable or patchable, and that the best option was to start over."

Counihan said other states are interested in Connecticut’s system, although he declined to identify which. Officials in Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Idaho and New Mexico have said they want to review the operations of their exchanges.

About Ana Radelat

Ana is a longtime Washington correspondent who has won numerous awards, including from The Associated Press and Gannett, has written for more than a dozen newspapers, including USAToday; The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; the Shreveport (La.) Times; and the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. She’s also been a regular contributor to other publications, including the Miami Herald and Advertising Age. Some of the stories Ana has broken focused on the strategies of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Sen. Trent Lott’s fall from power and questionable Hurricane Katrina contracts. A regular contributor to WNPR, Connecticut Public Radio, a partner of The Mirror, Ana is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism. E-mail her at aradelat@ctmirror.org.

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