The contractor under fire for the botched rollout of the state’s troubled online health exchange for uninsured people was also hired during a closed-door meeting to develop a similar marketplace for Maryland’s small businesses — work that exchange officials acknowledge has halted.
The news has further dismayed those who want to sell or buy insurance on the exchange website. It also has given fuel to critics of the procurement process and exchange launch, both outside of state government and among some top state officials.
“I think we’re on the third delay, and if they’ve stopped working on it, this may not be the last delay,” said Jessica Cooper, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses in Maryland. “Technical problems have been widely discussed, but small businesses just want them to fix it. Delays make it extremely difficult to plan and prepare.”
In September 2012, the exchange board awarded Noridian Healthcare Solutions the $19 million contract extension through a “task order” to develop the small business exchange website, known as SHOP. Delays will total 15 months, with a launch date planned for next January.
Officials say they need to concentrate on enrolling individuals before the March 31 deadline under the federal Affordable Care Act. Then they need time to decide whether to fix or ditch the software used by Noridian and blamed for thousands of lost and stalled applications and inaccurate subsidy estimates.
This is the latest bad news with the state’s exchange. Anthony Brown needs to shoulder his share of the responsibility for all the problems but I’m not sure the voters of Maryland are sophisticated enough to do that this summer or fall.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.