As punishment for embarrassing Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, one of the names being bandied about as a potential Democratic presidential candidate for 2016, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange brought down the hatchet and sent the head of the contractor responsible for the creation of the state's expensive and broken online healthcare exchange rolling into the basket.
The Exchange voted late Sunday, Feb. 23, to deep six their $193 million contract with Noridian Healthcare Solutions. Columbia-based Optum/QSSI, which the state hired in December to help repair the flawed exchange, will become the prime contractor, while Noridian will assist with the transition.
Maryland was one of 14 states that opted to set up its own healthcare exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act. Gov. O'Malley lauded the state's exchange, saying it would be one of the finest in the nation. When they pulled the switch on Oct. 1, the site failed within minutes. Since then, with patchwork repairs, the system has crawled along allowing some state residents to apply for insurance under the ACA while others were left in the dark.
The Washington Post reports that as of Monday, Maryland had paid Noridian $67.9 million for its work, and had unpaid invoices totaling another $12.9 million, according to state health officials.
We worked very hard with [Noridian] to find a path forward,” said Isabel FitzGerald, the cabinet secretary in charge of information technology. “And the decision now is that we are just not making the progress that we had hoped.”
Maryland “is preserving all rights to seek damages against Noridian and its subcontractors for problems with the IT system,” Joshua M. Sharfstein, state secretary of health and mental hygiene, said Monday before a legislative panel that is monitoring the exchange.
Noridian is working out a termination agreement with the state, according to Tom McGraw, president and chief executive of the North Dakota-based company. Nordian will not be hanging around for long, according to a person close to the discussions who said the plan is for a “very rapid handover” that will have Noridian out the door and gone by next week. The deal would include a six-month moratorium on legal claims filed by the state against Noridian or by Noridian against the state, the person said.
Think of it as insurance against lawsuits that could come from the faulty website that was supposed to make access to the benefits of the ACA easy for Marylanders.