While we focus on the travails of the federal Healthcare.gov exchange for ObamaCare, don’t forget that the state exchanges aren’t necessarily faring much better. As the White House hailed new enrollment numbers that looked less than hailable on closer examination, the nation’s most populous state decided to shut down a key component of their own system. Covered California’s small-business exchange, SHOP Marketplace, will remain closed for months:
The nation’s most populous state has elected to temporarily shutter its new online health insurance marketplace for small business only four months after it launched, dealing yet another blow to a key element of the health care law meant to lower costs for employers.
California officials on Wednesday announced they are suspending online enrollment effective immediately for small businesses on the state’s new health insurance portal, known as Covered California. Health plans available through the state’s Small Business Health Options Program (or SHOP) will still be available but can only be purchased over the phone, via paper applications or through insurance agents.
State health officials say they will use the time to “implement a series of redesigns.”
“The SHOP portal was not meeting the needs of agents or small employers and needed improvements,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said in a statement announcing the decision. “Taking the portal offline will not affect the paper application process, which has been the preferred enrollment method traditionally used by insurance agents in the small-group market.”
The state has not made a decision whether to retain the company responsible for the web-site failure as yet. Care to guess what company that turns out to be? No, it’s not CGI Federal, who recently got fired by HHS for its Healthcare.gov woes. Instead, it turns out to be … the same company that got the replacement contract on a no-bid basis:
Accenture is the lead contractor on Covered California’s SHOP program. Hicks said it remains to be seen if the company will be retained.
Accenture officials had yet to respond to requests for comments. There are no reports of similar issues with other states’ SHOP portals.
Yes, Accenture turns out to be just as incompetent as CGI Federal, even on the smaller scale of the SHOP Marketplace portal, which served small businesses of under 50 employees voluntarily looking for health insurance coverage for their workers. Changing from CGI Federal to Accenture might not be much of a difference in competence — and not much of a difference in personnel, either. I linked this NYT report earlier in the week, but it’s worth a second look in this context:
After denigrating the work of CGI and replacing it as the largest contractor on the federal health care website, the Obama administration is negotiating with the company to extend its work on the project for a few months.
And the new prime contractor, Accenture, is trying to recruit and hire CGI employees to work under its supervision. …
The government altered the proposed contract over the weekend, the person said, to identify specific CGI employees whom federal officials wanted to retain.
“This appears to be a typical government contract shuffle,” Luke Chung, the president of FMS, a software development company in Vienna, Va., said of the handoff. “A new company wins the contract and hires many of the old people. It happens all the time in government.”
That’s true, but usually it happens when the government wants to retain competency and continuity on successful programs. In this case, neither company has proven competent at its work in this field on large or small scales. Don’t expect anything to improve while HHS merely shuffles letterheads while keeping the same people who produced failure after failure on the job.