More trouble for CGI, Obamacare website designer

The company that designed the malfunctioning website now finds itself in more trouble at the state level.

The Boston Globe is reporting that CGI Group is being denied payment by Massachusetts and Vermont as a result of dysfunctional state exchange websites that have yet to be fixed.

So far, the state has paid $11 million of its $69 million contract with CGI. It will not pay a penny more until a functioning website has been delivered, said Jason Lefferts, spokesman for the Commonwealth Health Connector, the state's insurance marketplace.

"CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern," Lefferts said. "We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance."

Massachusetts has reverted to using an alternative software system and paper notifications for residents seeking new insurance, a significant black eye for a system that was held up as a national model for providing coverage after it debuted in 2007.

In Vermont, state officials recently alerted CGI that the state is withholding payment of $5.1 million as compensation for the company's failure to meet key deadlines.

The state is also disputing more than $1 million in charges billed by CGI because of incomplete work that left its insurance website so far behind schedule that Vermonters could not buy coverage online, as promised under Obama's health care law, until early December, two months after it opened.

"I've lost confidence in the contractors that were supposed to deliver a fully functioning website on Oct. 1," said Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont. "I'm going to continue to hold their feet to the fire until they get it right."

Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans are supposed to obtain insurance through the new marketplaces by the end of March 2014 or face a tax penalty. An uncertain number of Americans numbering at least in the hundreds of thousands who lost coverage in 2013 were supposed to sign up by Tuesday to obtain replacement coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

In pitching the health law, President Obama said shopping for coverage would be as easy as purchasing a plane ticket online. But the race to enroll the uninsured has been an uphill slog -- not only in the glitch-plagued federal site, which is serving 36 states that chose not to build their own websites, but in some of the remaining states that chose to go it on their own.

As near as we can determine at this point, CGI was given all these contracts at the national and state level largely because CMS had worked with them before and knew the people involved. Competency by the company apparently played little part in the decision.

Circumstantial evidence regarding cronyism notwithstanding, this was a mind boggling bureaucratic screw up born of a culture that is unaccountable to anything except it's own, relentless self interest. There is no incentive to get it right, no incentive to perform adequately. Why should we expect anything more when they don't expect anything more of themselves?

Every single bureaucrat at HHS, CMS, and any agency involved in designing, building, and implementing this website still have a job. No one has been fired for near criminal incompetency and negligence. Chances are very good that, like the Benghazi cover-up at the State Department, a few lower level bureaucrats will be reassigned and that will be the end of it. The Obama administration doesn't do accountability. If they did, there would have been mass resignations by now from top to bottom.