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Continued: MNsure is shifting project management to outside vendor

  • Article by: JEFFREY MEITRODT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 16, 2014 - 6:26 AM

Bidding records show that Maximus was the only company that was unable to deliver a working prototype of its online exchange in December 2011, when the Minnesota Department of Commerce invited state residents to check out website “simulations” from all five bidders.

Instead of a functioning website, however, Maximus offered an informational video, state records show. The video drew scathing reviews from most of the people who participated in the survey. “This is awful. Confusing. Useless,” wrote one reviewer. Said another: “Worst of all the options since no modules were available for interaction.”

The public evaluation was supposed to be worth 10 percent of each bidder’s score, but Maximus’ poor showing was not a significant factor in the final selection process, records and interviews show.

Maximus and New York-based Deloitte finished the evaluation process with scores that were far higher than any of the other bidders. At first, state officials tried to cut a deal with Deloitte, but talks broke down because Deloitte wanted $20 million more than Minnesota was willing to spend, MNsure officials said. Deloitte also refused to go along with the state’s decision to purchase off-the-shelf software from Curam, saying it was unwilling to accept the risk of being responsible for the company’s work, MNsure officials said.

Curam’s software has been linked to major problems with the health exchanges in both Minnesota and Maryland, which used several of the same vendors.

‘Black hole’

In Minnesota, Curam’s software has been blamed for a variety of breakdowns, including a glitch that caused thousands of incorrect eligibility determinations and another mistake that sent 2,600 applications into a “black hole” where they were lost for weeks.

Gov. Dayton interceded and strongly criticized IBM/Curam’s performance in a letter to IBM’s president and CEO in December 2013. He said the company knew about some of these problems and failed to alert MNsure.

The company ended up sending 100 workers to Minnesota late last year to help resolve problems that left thousands of consumers stuck in the system.

In the most recent report by SES, the auditor noted that MNsure cannot properly track software defects or even distinguish between those caused by normal operations vs. those created by software upgrades or enhancements.

IBM officials declined a request for an interview.

IBM spokeswoman Mary Welder said in a written statement: “IBM remains fully committed to the IBM Curam solution and to MNsure to further improve the user experience.”

 

Jeffrey Meitrodt • 612-673-4132

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