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State still waiting for fixes [The Honolulu Star-Advertiser :: ]
[February 22, 2014]

State still waiting for fixes [The Honolulu Star-Advertiser :: ]

(Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 22--Four months since its launch, the Hawai'i Health Connector is still struggling to get its main contractor, CGI Group Inc., to fix computer defects preventing many consumers from enrolling online.

The Connector's chief information officer, Anjali Kata­ria, told Connector board members at a meeting Friday that the nonprofit is focused on boosting the system's stability and performance to improve user experience. In many cases, consumers have spent dozens of hours trying to sign up through the online marketplace designed to match lower-income residents with subsidized coverage under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

"About 41 percent of the defects are still open from the go-live (the Connector's start date of Oct. 15), which is a high number," Kata­ria said. "It's been a long time now, it's been many months. We're being very aggressive about it. Everybody's got to play ball. We paid a vendor to do this. They bid on a contract in a competitive process. This is not something the Connector can fix." The Connector awarded CGI a $53 million, four-year contract a year ago to build the insurance exchange, including the website, but CGI failed to meet the scheduled Oct. 1 launch date due to software problems. Hawaii was last in the nation to go live with health plans on Oct. 15, and the problems have continued.

"We had a lot of issues with performance and stability that had been late to be addressed," Kata­ria said, adding that an objective now is to remove all defects and manual workarounds that are causing confusion. "Some people would say it is working, the lights are on. But we need more than the lights on. We need the functionality to work so that people can enroll in one sitting in less than 45 minutes. We're actively trying to ask for your (board members') support in helping to manage the vendor." The repairs needed include software coding to make pages load faster and reduce the number of clicks it takes for a user to navigate through the website.

The Connector has asked CGI to work together to solve the software issues and is still waiting for a response, Kata­ria told board members. A CGI representative couldn't be reached for comment Friday, and no CGI representative spoke at the board meeting.

"The original (CGI) contract has a number of places where it states it will be a first-class consumer experience and refresh times will be less than 1 second," Kata­ria said. "We don't have that consistently. (Sometimes) there's a surge when we have a good run of luck." The Obama administration ended a contract in January with CGI, which also built the equally problematic federal health insurance exchange.

CGI is one of the world's largest information technology firms with 29,000 employees, including 70 in Hawaii who work in a downtown Hono­lulu office.

Montreal-based CGI has a checkered history in Hawaii. The company previously upset lawmakers after it was paid $87.5 million between 1999 and 2011 to modernize the state Department of Taxation's collection system that officials say has never worked properly. The state is preparing to spend at least another $32 million to redo the project.

The Connector had enrolled more than 5,000 people as of Friday, according to interim Executive Director Tom Matsuda. However, more than 18,000 applications have been processed as of Feb. 15.

Hawaii had the lowest number of individuals who selected a health plan -- 3,614, less than 1 percent of the population of 1.4 million -- from Oct. 1 through Feb. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An estimated 70 percent of enrollees didn't receive tax credits to reduce the cost of coverage, the report shows.

Lawmakers are considering turning the Connector, which is a private nonprofit, into a state agency and have questioned whether Hawaii should also end its contract with CGI.

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