IBM Pinned For Health Exchange Fiasco

By CIOReview | Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fremont: State officials have been losing many nights sleep over the issues that currently plague Maryland and Minnesota online health exchanges. A report from Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, predicts it can take Minnesota two years to iron out the issues. The entity responsible for this debacle is IBM’s Cúram, the software tasked with determining a consumer’s eligibility for health-insurance coverage, reports Clint Boulton of Wall Street Journal.

There are penalties to be paid if a person fails to enroll in a health insurance plan by March 31, and flawed websites are doing everything to hinder the cause. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s five page letter to IBM CEO Virginia Rometty detailed 21 specific problems of the Cúram software. “Your product has not delivered promised functionality and has seriously hindered Minnesotans' abilities to purchase health insurance or apply for public health care programs through MNsure,” wrote Dayton. The software has so far failed to reliably determine the individuals’ eligibility for Medicaid, and according to the state, these issues coupled with other problems have put thousands of applications in a ‘black hole’.

In response, IBM has sent dozens of employees and has contractors working on the site. While there has been an improvement, officials from both the states claim significant issues that are yet to be fixed before the websites can return to normal functioning. This has tremendously increased the manual workload as they are having to double check numerous applications for errors.

Incidentally, IBM has been involved in a number of unpleasant government projects over the last few years, which includes a $1B health department payroll system project that resulted in IBM being sued by Queensland, in 2010; a failed welfare administration system overhaul in Indiana, in 2009; a botched project to modernize Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation computer system in 2013. Whatever the tech giant’s problem might be; the health exchange websites need to be fixed soon. “We are providing on-site services and technical resources beyond the scope of IBM's contractual responsibilities to assist the State in resolving the remaining issues as quickly as possible,” the company statement read.