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Glimpse of health exchange audit shows progress

Maryland health exchange officials have been saying for months that everything is on track for a smooth launch of their new website, where residents can buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The thousands who had trouble enrolling on the last dysfunctional website may be skeptical, but they have no choice but to take the officials' word for it. Exchange officials have declined to release a new audit of their preparation, despite requests from members of the news media.

To back up the claims, the exchange provided a summary last week of an audit by Angarai, a Greenbelt-based management consulting firm. The full audits are confidential, said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, state health secretary and chairman of the exchange board.

"Based on the initial assessment, it's Angarai's findings that the Exchange's IT structures follow commonly accepted industry standards (Project Management Institute) and are of a maturity expected for the scale and scope of this initiative," said the summary from the small Greenbelt company hired last month to monitor progress.

The federal authorities overseeing the states' exchanges required the audits, called independent verification and validation.

Exchange officials released the full audits of the existing exchange website conducted by BerryDunn earlier this year to help explain the disastrous launch Oct. 1. Those audits showed that officials were warned months in advance of serious management and technical problems.

Exchange leadership switched contractors because they wanted the audits to be "more proactive," according to Isabel FitzGerald, who was brought in to oversee the technology operation when the first website failed.

Angarai was hired about three months after the exchange board voted to ditch that website and adopt technology used in Connecticut.

And while this first summary shows the basic architecture and management of the new exchange is solid, it notes that the timelines are short to retrofit the code to work in Maryland. Open enrollment begins Nov. 15, but officials said last week they are considering a "soft opening" that would limit the number of people who could use the site on the first day.

Angarai reported that it will begin meeting with exchange officials regularly to track progress. The exchange now expects to release new audit summaries every month.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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