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'Disaster Waiting to Happen': News Probe into Problems with Md. Health Exchange

A lack of planning, testing time and infighting all contributed to problems on the Maryland health insurance exchange website, according to a Washington Post investigation.

'Disaster Waiting to Happen': News Probe into Problems with Md. Health Exchange

One information technology leader working on the Maryland health insurance exchange resigned before the fall rollout, saying the website “was a disaster waiting to happen,” writes The Washington Post.

The newspaper investigated the fighting between the state’s political leaders, IT contractors working on the site, and the departure of leaders working on the $170 million project that was supposed to be ready by Oct. 1.

Among the Post’s findings:

  • Multiple contractors testing the Web site warned it was “extremely unstable;” almost immediately after its Oct. 1 launch the site crashed. Last week only 20,358 people had purchased insurance through the exchange, prompting the state to consider emergency legislation.
  • Many state agencies didn’t sign agreements that would allow the site to be built, missing early deadlines in 2012.
  • Auditors at BerryDunn warned state officials in the fall of 2012 that the staff of less than a dozen “may not be sufficient to complete the work.”
  • A lack of a clear decision-maker also generated warnings in late in 2012. A contractor was replaced, but auditors warned there was still no plan for building the site, no oversight and poor communication among contractors working on the website.
  • Turnover continued to plague the effort. A project manager resigned after a month, and the third project manager left after only a few months “because it was a disaster waiting to happen.”
  • Infighting by constractors Noridian Healthcare Solutions and EngagePoint – which had agreed to share profits for development of the exchange -- brought work nearly to a halt and later spurred lawsuits.
  • Software had to be replaced with newer and untested versions needed to meet federal security requirements.
  • Despite a September test that showed the site was extremely unstable, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and other state leaders agreed to keep the site’s Oct. 1 launch date. 
Read the full results on  The Washington Post website.

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