Report: State held back details of health website progress

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BOSTON (AP) — The state was aware for more than a year that the updated version of its health connector website was well behind schedule and may have tried to conceal that knowledge from the public and the federal government, a report suggests.

The Pioneer Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, said the report it released Monday was based on discussions with whistleblowers and information from publicly available audits.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's administration, which took office in January, said last week it had received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney's office for records related to the health connector dating to 2010. The administration was cooperating with the subpoena, an aide said.

The Pioneer report said only a small number of features on the website were completed before the scheduled Oct. 1, 2013, launch date.

The report said the state failed to hold the website's original lead contractor, CGI Group, accountable for shoddy work; failed to commit sufficient resources to the project, resulting in workers sending documents to their home computers; and attempted to conceal shortcomings by misrepresenting the progress of the health insurance exchange.

The state ultimately severed ties with CGI, which also was the lead contractor on the federal health care website that struggled out of the gate. The state paid CGI $52 million of an original $89 million contract.

"Citizens should demand accountability of public officials that left us with this mess," said the report's author Josh Archambault.

Archambault declined to identify the people he described as whistleblowers, saying they asked not to be named for job reasons. He said the two top people worked directly on the project.

Baker said Monday that he hadn't read the report but was focused on making the connector site work instead of getting distracted by the past.

"We inherited something I think everybody would agree is a bit of a basket case. Our goal is to try to get it to function," Baker said. "We have a reenrollment coming up in September and an open enrollment coming up in November. The people in Massachusetts are going to expect up to deliver on that."

Massachusetts' first-in-the-nation 2006 health care law served as a model for President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act.

But the state's transition to the federal program in 2013-14 proved disastrous, forcing the administration of Democratic then-Gov. Deval Patrick to place hundreds of thousands of residents into temporary Medicaid coverage.

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